Post-COVID Return to 2022 Taipei Building Show Offers Insights

2022 Taipei Building Show

Eight U.S. representatives, including five Southern Forest Products Association members, attended the 2022 Taipei Building Show in December as part of the American Softwoods contingency for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders to foreign visitors.  

The Taipei Building Show is the largest of its type in the country and attracts large numbers of architects, builders, interior designers, and other construction professionals.

Background on Taipei and Wood

According to the Taiwan supervisory and audit branch of the government, Taiwan needs to build more wood frame buildings to help the country achieve the government’s net zero energy goal by 2050.  The Control Yuan reported the addition of wooden structures will not only help the country boost its energy efficiency, but it will also help resist earthquake damage in this highly earthquake prone region.  

Hampering this goal are Taiwan’s outdated building codes, which hinder the adoption of new construction technologies such as mass timber construction. A panel of government officials suggest fast-tracking amendments to building regulations that allow for more wooden structures. Citing examples in other countries, the panel believes the government can lead in implementing such projects in public projects.

Almost 99% of timber in Taiwan is imported, much of which is from Malaysia. High prices and limited supply U.S. softwood lumber for export over the past two years impacted U.S. exports to Taiwan, which were largely replaced by European suppliers.

The country likely will continue to depend heavily on imported softwood lumber because of limited land area available for timber plantations.  While the Taiwan government has a goal to meet 5% of its timber demand with locally grown fiber, the country will need 2,100 hectares to achieve this goal, which analysts predict is unlikely.

Most of the U.S. softwood products exported to Taiwan are used for non-structural applications. However, opportunities for structural and treated lumber, structural panels, and engineered wood products in the residential and non-residential construction sectors are gradually expanding thanks to U.S. industry efforts to change Taiwan’s building codes and product standards.

These are increasingly important as Taiwan moves toward modernization of construction sectors and permit development of large-scale wooden projects.

However, wood used as a structural material in public-use and multi-family buildings is considered a “special material” and requires a special building permit that can take up to two years to obtain. This is considered a major limit to the growth of the wood frame construction industry since there appears to be more immediate potential for large public buildings constructed of wood.

Fire codes also restrict the use of wood as exposed trusses and beams in roof construction. However, exposed beams and trusses are a major draw for designers to use wood in public and private buildings.

The Taiwan Construction and Planning Agency of Ministry of Interior (CPAMI) announced a long-awaited revision to wood building codes in January 2021. The revised codes relate to fire protection for ceilings and walls, two vital elements in wood structure design. These updated codes recognize modern standards in wood construction and will pave the way for wood products in new ways for the first time in Taiwan. It is estimated this change will increase U.S. exports by 10% in 2021.

Despite the government’s support for wood frame construction, there are still many obstacles to the widespread use of wood as a structural building material in Taiwan. Foremost of these obstacles is widespread consumer and architect concern about the susceptibility of wood buildings to fire, termites, water and typhoon damage, and limited technical knowledge about how to design and build wood structures. Other obstacles include cost, difficulty obtaining financing and insurance, and limited space in urban areas for single-family homes.

Since there are few examples of wood frame construction in Taiwan, most consumers do not understand what a wood frame house is, often picturing a log home instead. These misconceptions indicate a need for the U.S. industry to educate Taiwanese architects, builders, and consumers wood frame construction is durable, resistant to the elements if constructed properly, and more comfortable than concrete housing.

2022 Taipei Building Show Experience

The 2022 Taipei Building Show had a busy flow of visitors, with the American Softwoods booth receiving more than 150 visitors over the four-day show, including architects, interior designers, builders and homeowners.

Of these visitors, 111 left their contact information and 101 completed a survey. Many visitors reported familiarity with Southern Yellow Pine as an outdoor application as well as Western softwoods. Taiwan is also the world’s largest importer of various species of cedar sourced from the United States, India, and Vietnam.

Many booth visitors noted an appreciation for high-quality products and reliable operations associated with the U.S. Leading obstacles, however, include a lack of understanding about U.S. species and grades.

This lack of knowledge combined with a preference for high-quality materials and a willingness to pay for this quality, places Taiwan in line with AMSO’s global strategy to develop and expand high-value markets for U.S. softwood lumber.

As such, AMSO will continue to work closely with the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Taipei to educate architects and importers about U.S. species and how to use them in preservative treated, interior, and structural applications.

SFPA members: Don’t forget to check out the contacts secured during the show and their corresponding contact information on our members-only site!