Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wood Buildings

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Introduction

Recent architectural trends include the design and construction of increasingly tall buildings with structural components comprised of engineered wood referred to by names including; cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), or glued laminated timber (Glulam). These buildings are cited for their advantages in sustainability resulting from the use of wood as a renewable construction material.

Research and testing are needed to evaluate the contribution of massive timber elements to room/compartment fires with the types of structural systems that are expected to be found in tall buildings (e.g. CLT, etc.). Previous research has shown that timber elements contribute to the fuel load in buildings and can increase the initial fire growth rate. This has the potential to overwhelm fire protection systems, which may result in more severe conditions for occupants, fire fighters, property and neighboring property.

The contribution of timber elements to compartment fires needs to be quantified and compared against other buildings systems to assess the relative performance. The contribution of exposed timber to room fires should be quantified for the full fire duration using metrics such as charring rate, visibility, temperature and toxicity. This will allow a designer to quantify the contribution, validate design equations and develop a fire protection strategy to mitigate the level of risk to occupants, fire fighters, property and neighboring property. In addition, the effect of encapsulating the timber as means of preventing or delaying involvement in the fire (e.g. gypsum, thermal barrier) needs to be characterized.


Current project - Phase 2

Research goal: Quantify the contribution of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building elements (wall and/or floor‐ceiling assemblies) in compartment fires and evaluate the relative performance of CLT systems compared to other buildings systems commonly used in tall buildings. 

This research program will be conducted under the auspices of the Fire Protection Research Foundation in accordance with Foundation Policies and will be guided by a Project Technical Panel. The contractors for this work are National Research Council (NRC) Canada and Research Institute of Sweden (RISE). The full scale testing is being conducted at The National Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  

Download the project summary. (PDF, 134 KB)

Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings    Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings    Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings 
Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings
  Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings
  Research Foundation project for tall wood buildings
NRC Canada and NIST Project Team in the Lab.

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