How To Avoid Risks In Multi-Family Wood Construction

Pillar Technologies
4 min readAug 24, 2020


By: Pillar Technologies

Building multi-family condominiums and apartments with wood is a fast-growing trend. Depending on who you talk to, there are different reasons for this movement. Let’s look further into what’s fueling the growth, the potential risks of using wood, and effective risk mitigation.

Advantages of Building With Wood

There are many reasons builders prefer wood. Here are the top five:

  1. Cost-Effective — compared to concrete, lumber is much less expensive, which makes it appealing to developers.
  2. Sustainable — wood grows naturally in most areas of the country, so not only is it sustainable, there’s generally no long-distance transporting, making it good for the environment.
  3. Safe — all building codes require a certain level of safety regardless of the materials (wood, steel, concrete, etc.). The advantage of wood in construction is that it can meet and exceed safety for seismic, winds, and fire.
  4. Easy to Use — most construction workers know how to build using wood. Plus, many sections can be prefabricated off-site, making it safer for workers.
  5. Faster Construction — compared to heavy beam steel construction, wood is much easier to work with, which makes building quicker.

The Rise of Multi-Family

In addition to the wood building trend, there are also demographic changes and their preferences. Now, younger couples and households want to live in the city, closer to work, their friends, recreation, and in a more walkable neighborhood. Millennials (many who are saddled with massive student debt) have no choice but to rent.

This increased need for multi-family housing has developers looking at both high-rise condominiums and apartments instead of single-family homes.

Tall Wood Building Trends Is Growing

Besides the increase in demand for multi-family housing, the tall wood building trend is happening all over the country. Here are some examples:

The Dangers of Wood Construction

Wood is less expensive to build with, which makes it appealing to commercial builders, but on the flip side of the cost savings are the dangers and potential hazards of this building material which include:

  • Fire Risks — over the last several years, there have been massive fires like AvalonBay’s 235-unit development in New Jersey, which was under construction for 18 months.
  • Moisture Problems — too much humidity, broken pipes, or even a small leak over a weekend can wreck a project. Besides fire, water and moisture pose significant problems with building with wood.
  • Mold Growth — fast-growing mold can take a project that’s on schedule and throw it completely off and turn a profitable job into an unprofitable one.

Advantages of Concrete Over Wood Construction

Concrete advocates state that building with concrete is safer for multi-family buildings because there’s less chance of fire, plus termites and mold aren’t an issue. But, there’s still the affordability factor. There must be an answer. Let’s see what it is.

Detecting Problems Before They Occur

Many multi-family fires occur before the building is occupied — when it’s under construction. A solution that AvalonBay put into place after the fire was to use Pillar Tech’s high-tech answer to detect problems before they happen. Pillar Tech helps reduce the risks of commercial construction by taking a proactive approach. They use a set of smart sensors and deploy them on a construction site. These sensors capture live data from active job sites. That data is transmitted back via smart devices to notify builders if there is a potential issue instantly. There are eight different metrics of the building environment measured. They are:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Carbon monoxide
  4. VOCs
  5. Particulates
  6. Noise
  7. Light
  8. Pressure

Increased Safety For Multi-Family Wood Construction

Pillar Tech’s real-time electronic monitoring for job sites is your easy-to-use solution. Our active warning system pushes real-time notifications to your smartphone so you can handle little problems before they become disasters. To find out more, visit us at Pillar Tech.