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wood vs concrete

Original post made by vladrad on Aug 14, 2012

Why most buildings (single family homes) are from wood and not from brick&concrete?
I know that building new home in Palo Alto is about 200-350$ per sq feet but how much would cost if whole home is made from brick and concrete and not from "wood".

Comments (9)

Posted by Structurally Sound, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:11 am

Can't say without knowing the details of the structure. Total square footage? One or two story? Lot location? The driving cost of reinforced masonry and concrete construction in this area is primarily labor. Building regulations here require designs that resist earthquakes, so the masonry and concrete require steel reinforcement to carry the load. Steel is expense, and the labor to install it even more so. Some areas have poor clay soils, and require a significant foundation to avoid failure when the clay heaves during wet winters and contracts during dry summers. Finally, reinforced masonry and concrete walls have terrible acoustic properties so you'll need your architect to design elements of your structure to mitigate noise.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2012 at 9:09 am

I have wondered a lot about this myself.

Traditionally most European homes are built with bricks and mortar (heard that phrase somewhere else) and north American are built with wood. The fact that there were a lot of trees here when Europeans came here may have started that trend from a historical perspective.

The fact is that most European homes wouldn't pass the strict earthquake codes here and American homes wouldn't pass the strict fire codes in Europe. When we have fires here the only thing left standing is the chimney, not the case in Europe. Their brick houses would probably fall like a house of cards in a moderate earthquake but don't suffer much structural damage in many housefires unless the flames are left unattended to burn for a long time.


Posted by vladrad, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I am from Europe and just moved here. I never ever lived in house from wood before. I have never met person who lived in house from wood before. (we are in same climate zone as Palo Alto). So strange for me to have house from wood. :(
actually any house from wood in my ex country is maybe some temporary houses (on 1 year for example) or dog house.
I am thinking about demolish whole house and build normal house (with steal and concrete) even if that would take me long time to build. I just wonder what is problem with building single family home from concrete/brick/steal?


Posted by Seismic Sam, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm

" I just wonder what is problem with building single family home from concrete/brick/steal?"

Earthquakes.


Posted by vladrad, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Trust me I was at home with so many earthquakes and there was 0 issue with earthquake. Now I really think house from concrete/brick/steal is much safer then wood in case of earthquake.


Posted by vladrad, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Check this image. All wood homes was down After the 1906 Earthquake and concrete building was ok.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

You say you want to build a "normal" house of bricks and concrete. Unfortunately that is not what is considered normal here. I wonder if you have looked into the permit process for getting something that would appear normal in your home country built here. Whether you manage to get an architect or planning permits along the lines you imagine is something that you must consider before you go any further. I suggest you talk to someone at the City planning office with your ideas before you go any further and start spending money.


Posted by Lived in England too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm

The reason houses in Europe are built with brick and mortar is that by the 18th Century wood (ie trees) were no longer available in the quantities needed for building homes, therefore, other materials had to be found to build houses.

Houses are built with wood in North America because wood is still available (ie trees). Also wood is much more flexible in earthquake country. Having visited Christchurch recently brick and motar simply crumbled and collapsed in the earthquake; wood frame buildings are mostly still standing. I'd build a wood frame house in earthquake prone Northern California.


Posted by vladrad, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Of course I will talk with someone in City planning. Just wanted to know before that is there any particular reason for people not building houses from concrete/brick/steal. Only it will take time until I save some money for that adventure. :)


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