Serena Yap is Technical Director, Building Structural Leader, at global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon. She worked on one of the first large-scale projects using MET in Singapore; a sports hall for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) called “The Wave” while with her previous company.
“The sports hall has a 72-metre span roof without any internal columns. External columns support seven long-span timber arches,” she explained. “As this was a project of many firsts in Singapore, we collaborated closely with the authorities, client and project team to ensure its viability as a safe, stable and appropriate material for the building. Because of prefabrication, construction was sped up, resulting in labour savings of 25%.
“One aspect that had to be considered with MET was whether Singapore’s humidity would be an issue. It is true that the more moisture that gets into wood, the more it weakens. However, the wood is specially treated so that this is controlled.
“It’s no different from a concrete building really, you still have to design it for its context. A concrete building near the sea will degrade because of salt water. You just ensure that you cater for that within the design and set the acceptable tolerances for the material.”
Serena added that a common perception is that timber buildings will be more combustible. However, wood actually has fire resistant properties – it chars when it burns. At a general charring rate of 0.7 mm per minute, the charred layer offers the resistance required by fire rating codes, protecting the structure from further damage.