Building Techniques: France vs. the US

In European countries such as the UK, Germany, and France, the majority of the buildings are concrete framed. The mixture is composed of sand or limestone that is formed into blocks. Masonry is the construction of concrete and brick blocks cemented by mortar to form the structure of a building. On the other hand, because wood is economically and physically ideal, wood or steel framing is becoming more and more popular in other countries like the US. Wood is a cheaper yet convenient resource for the nation’s housing population. Buildings that are wood framed are suitable for any type of weather as the material has many architectural possibilities.

Construction of concrete masonry units (CMU) costs higher for labor and resources. However, concrete does have better durability and resistance to fire and moisture compared to wood. The building of CMU requires strict compliance of codes, following either engineered or empirical design for construction.

  • Engineered masonry is a design method that has detailed analysis covering all forces such as lateral loads, live and dead loads, and other building components.
  • The empirical design relies on the wall type and its thickness. It is most commonly used for single-family dwellings.

Materials for the construction through CMU are granite, concrete, brick, stone, marble, cob, cast stone, and travertine. The primary step in the masonry construction is to carefully plan and estimate the number of bricks and concrete blocks needed to fill in the wall dimension. Then, you need to secure proper storage of the materials to protect them from the weather and avoid physical damage. Layout and coursing of masonry units are very crucial especially on the first steps where a single mistake can affect the whole structure later on.  The units must be aligned vertically and horizontally for stability.

On the other hand, wood framing requires strict compliance of building codes with regards the installation process. These codes are made to ensure durability of the structure. Framing lumber or structural wood should be grade marked. Types of construction include balloon frame, truss-framed construction, foundations, fastenings, and plank and beam construction.

Leave a Reply