Market Overview

Since the early 2000s, the trend of building with wood in Korea has increased. This is largely due to the country’s rising affluence, as well as new policies supporting the urban decentralization strategy that encourages a more balanced mix of building types (high-, mid- and low-rise). Government efforts to encourage the construction of passive and zero-energy buildings by 2025 present further opportunities for wood within Korea’s construction sector.

In addition, with the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, BC enjoys tariff-free access for our lumber products and will see the gradual elimination of tariffs for other wood products.

Photo: Canada Village, South Korea | Credit: Canada Wood Korea

Key Stats

0

%
of BC wood shipped to Korea is construction-grade lumber

0

x
The value of BC softwood lumber exports to Korea has more than doubled since 2006

0

+
2x4 homes built since the start of the program

Why South Korea?

  • Preference for construction-grade lumber
  • Government policies increasingly favour wood construction
  • Societal preferences increasingly favour wood
  • Canada has the expertise and product to meet the growing demand
Photo: Dong-cheon Urban First Town House, South Jeolla province | Credit: Gwangjang Architects

Market Priorities

  • Expand wood use in residential construction
  • Support and facilitate wood use within industrialized construction (multi-storey/multi-family residential, non-residential and tall wood mass timber) and prefabrication
  • Position Canadian wood products and building systems as solutions to South Korea’s low carbon and sustainability goals
  • Expand the market for BC value-added products in South Korea
Photo: South Korea technical mission to BC | Credit: Canada Wood Korea

Strategic Approach

Supported by FII and the federal government, the Canada Wood Group leads market development programming in South Korea and continues work to expand opportunities for Canadian forest products, particularly in the construction sector. Efforts are focused on removing barriers to wood use, building capacity through training, expanding and deepening government contacts and providing guidance and technical support to the industry.

Photo: Canada Wood’s Dagagu house demo project, Incheon Metropolitan City | Credit: Canada Wood Korea

Featured Projects

Creating opportunities: strength-testing wood shear walls and prefab wood assemblies

Increasing the share of wood in Korea’s residential construction sector requires successfully completing product testing and acquiring the necessary government certificates and code approvals in areas such as fire resistance and sound insulation of wood assemblies.
Without these approvals, wood would be restricted in many construction applications.
In 2021/22, Canada Wood Korea worked to ensure that revisions to building codes do not create barriers to the use of Canadian wood products, that codes are updated to reflect the full potential for the use of wood and wood building technologies and that new Canadian wood products and building assemblies gain certification for use under the building code. Key initiatives during the year focused on testing and certification related to seismic design and prefabricated housing.

Seismic
Although the Korean Peninsula is not known as an area of high seismic activity, several recent tremors and steps by regulators have highlighted the need to ensure that seismic considerations are incorporated into building codes. In early 2021, Canada Wood approached Korean code officials to propose that the SSBC-TS (Small Scaled Building Code-Timber Structure) be expanded to include more wood shear wall design options. Collaborating with code officials, Canada Wood conducted exploratory testing to determine the performance of several innovative wood wall bracing options that provide improved strength and versatility over existing methods and expand designers’ choices. The results of these tests are providing the basis for code revisions expected to be completed later this year.

Prefabrication
Prefab wood housing accounts for some 10-15 percent of wood construction in Korea; however, cost and transportation restrictions remain obstacles to further development of the prefab sector. In 2021/22, three types of prefabricated composite beams were tested at the Korea National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) in an initiative jointly funded by Canada Wood and Green Cube, a Korean prefab wood housing company. The objective is to develop prefab floor and wall systems suitable for Korea’s detached housing market. Emphasis is being placed on versatile configurations that can simplify both transportation and installation. The results will inform building code requirements for the use of these systems in Korea.

Photo: Performance testing of shear wall at the National Institute of Forest Science  | Credit: Canada Wood Korea

Opening doors for wood joist floor assemblies in South Korea’s multi-family segment

Since 2013, the South Korea Housing Act has mandated the use of the tire drop ‘Bang’ machine for heavy impact acoustic testing, which effectively eliminates the use of wood joist floor systems in Korea’s multi-family housing segment.
In an effort to reinstate wood joist floors as an allowable option in multi-family buildings, Canada Wood Korea partnered with the Korean Society for Wood Science and Technology to carry out research and testing to support replacing the tire drop ‘Bang’ machine with an ‘Impact Ball’, an alternative heavy impact acoustic test that allows lighter wood-frame floor assemblies to meet performance requirements for impact sound insulation.
Based on test results, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MoLIT) recently proposed a revision to the Presidential Decree on the Housing Construction Standards that adopts the more widely globally accepted Impact Ball for heavy impact acoustic testing in place of the ‘Bang’ Machine. MoLIT expects the amended Decree to come into effect in August 2022.
Eliminating the use of the ‘Bang’ Machine is an important milestone on the road to establishing wood joist assemblies as a cost-effective option for floors in both low-rise multi-unit housing and high-rise hybrid construction in South Korea.

Photo: Standard impact sources. From left to right: Tire bang machine ball, ISO-tapping and NRC-IRC | Credit: Canada Wood Korea

Smart House—a Korean prefab home builder aims big

Prefab home construction is gaining traction in Korea and not only because prefab can cost less than a traditionally built home; quality control and a reduced environmental footprint are other driving factors.
For the past three years, Seoul-based builder Smart House, a company with a long history of collaboration with Canada Wood, has focused its business energies on developing the prefab residential housing market in South Korea. Constructed with Canadian S-P-F, the company’s homes feature designs that are tailor-made for prefab manufacturing, including clean lines and flat surfaces that can be easily run on production lines. Finished building components are shrink-wrapped at the factory and then stacked on trucks for transportation to the building site.
AZIT, a 19-unit Smart Home project currently under development, is a good example of prefab in action. Lee Young-joo, CEO of Smart House, notes that the company’s prefab home solution is attracting buyer interest because of higher construction quality and significant cost savings. According to Mr. Lee, prefab manufacturing will be key to meeting Korea’s booming demand for modern, affordable, mass-produced housing.
To-date, Smart Home has established two prefab plants with plans in place for further expansion. Together, these investments are helping the company build its leadership in the prefab home segment.

Photo: Prefab wooden panel production line | Credit: Smart House

Prefab home builder takes off

Space Factory, a prominent Korean prefab home builder, has a goal of providing high-quality, energyefficient housing at an affordable
price. To meet its objective, Space Factory is building a new 500,000 square foot factory to boost its productivity and manufacturing capacity. The new state-of-the-art facility will be equipped with the latest automation machinery and technology enabling it to produce almost 1,300 houses per year, potentially reducing the cost of building a home by up to 30 percent.
To support this initiative and position Canadian wood species, Canada Wood Korea is conducting training programs and technical seminars to educate Space Factory staff on Canadian wood and prefab materials and technical considerations.
The company plans to invest $40 million in the new factory, making it one of the largest investments ever in Korea’s wood construction industry.

Photo: Automated prefab wooden panel production line | Credit: Space Factory

NLT project wins top wood design award

The Jinju Community Centre, Canada Wood’s first nail-laminated timber (NLT) demonstration project in South Korea, has won the grand prize at the 2021 Korea Wood Design Awards. The award, hosted by the Korea Wood Construction Association and sponsored by the Korea Forest Service, recognizes the project for integrating an exposed NLT system into the structure to lend it a pleasing and warming interior ambiance, in the process maximizing floor space and minimizing the project’s environmental footprint.
The application of NLT in the Jinju Community Centre was a direct outcome of an agreement between Jinju Municipality and Canada Wood Korea to introduce mass timber into public building projects. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) provided funding for the project, while Canada Wood provided technical support for the design, manufacturing and installation of the NLT panels.

Canada Wood promotes NLT in Korea as a viable substitute for concrete slabs, steel decking and CLT panels due to its easy fabrication, cost competitiveness and high consumption of Canadian dimensional lumber.
With the Jinju Community Centre having demonstrated the costeffectiveness of the NLT system, the potential for NLT in the broader nonresidential sector in Korea is significant—the Jinju government already has plans to build ten similar community facilities in the next few years.

Photo: The Jinju Community Centre, the first NLT Demonstration project during construction in Korea | Canada Wood Korea

Bringing B.C. mass timber expertise to South Korea

Mass timber is gaining recognition in South Korea. The movement is being spurred by three recent developments: the government’s green and low-carbon policies that encourage the use of wood in the construction sector; the elimination of prescriptive height restrictions for wood structures; and the recent adoption of performance-based practices in the building sector.
Leveraging B.C.’s success in bringing mass timber to the mainstream of construction in North America, Canada Wood Korea is working with the Korea Institute of Building Construction (KIC) to engage with Korea’s largest builders and expose them to the opportunities for incorporating wood in larger and taller buildings.
KIC’s member companies include South Korea’s leading conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai, E&C and Lotte. These powerful entities play a central role in Korea’s construction market, especially in the mid-rise and tall building segments. Through its technical cooperation agreement with KIC, Canada Wood is engaging directly with these builders, delivering technical information and stimulating growing interest in the potential of mass timber.

Photo: In November, 2021 Canada Wood Korea hosted a technical workshop focused on mass timber construction, nail-laminated timber and wood infill wall technologies. Co-organized with the Korea Institute of Building Construction (KIC), the workshop targeted Korea’s largest builders and contractors | Credit: Korea Institute of Building Construction