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Title: Fire Safety of Tall Wood Buildings-Property Protection View

Source: Presentation: 2015 Mass Timber Research Workshop, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), Madison, Wisconsin; November 3-4, 2015

Author(s): Sumathipala, Kuma

Publication Year: 2015  View PDF »

Category: Presentations

Abstract: The U.S. is fortunate to have a vast supply of forest biomass suitable for manufacturing into products that can be used to build wood buildings greater than 8 stories in height. To capture this opportunity, stakeholders in the building construction industry must be assured these buildings are safe for their occupants as well as emergency responders, and do not present an unreasonable risk for loss of property. Current prescriptive building codes limit combustible construction to 85 feet in height and 6 stories. To expand the market for mass timber beyond these prescriptive limits, research and testing are needed to evaluate and quantify the contribution of mass timber elements to room/compartment fires with the types of structural systems that are expected to be found in tall wood buildings. Previous research has shown that unprotected timber elements can contribute to the fuel load and can aid the fire growth rate.

Fuel contribution from structural elements can potentially overwhelm fire protection systems, designed to mitigate and extinguish fires in noncombustible construction. As such, combustible structural element's contribution to compartment fires needs to be quantified and compared against non-combustible structural systems. A research program initiated by NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation, and funded by Property Insurance Research Group and USDA Forest Service, expects to quantify the contribution of combustible structural elements to room/compartment fires for the full fire duration using metrics such as charring rate, visibility, temperature, etc. This will allow a designer to quantify the contribution, validate design equations, and develop suitable mitigating technologies. Findings will also provide data for the insurance industry to establish fire insurance premiums for this new type of construction. Additionally, test results could be used to develop and support new requirements for U.S. model building codes, so that these buildings can be constructed without undergoing time consuming and expensive equivalency studies on a case-by-case basis.

Keywords: Mass Timber Research Workshop, cross laminated timber (CLT), green building, forest restoration activities

File size: 2,237 kb(s)

Date posted: 11/18/2015

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