Banner for LabNotes
From Lab Notes
Contact Information
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


You are here: FPL Home  / Information Products & Services  / Publications

Requested Product

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

Additional items that might interest you
View the video celebrating FPL's 100 years of public service in 2010, from the producers of the Greatest Good....view

Research Highlights from FPL....view

Termite Eradication: A search for the Holy Grail.... view

Moisture Management in Residential Construction Series videos...view

Wood Floor Systems in Residential Construction Series videos....view
- FPL's Mission and Strategic Plan -

FPL's mission is to identify and conduct innovative wood and fiber utilization research that contributes to conservation and productivity of the forest resource, thereby sustaining forests, the economy, and quality of life. ... ..more »

- FPL Research Emphasis Areas -
Advanced Composites

As an integral part of the FPL mission, we improve the long-term sustainability of our Nation's forests by creating valuable composite products from biobased materials ... ..more »

Advanced Structures

The FPL has been in the forefront of wood-frame housing research since 1910 and has long been recognized as a world leader in such housing-related areas as engineered wood ... ..more »

Forest Biorefinery

We all know the compelling reasons that the United States needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Historically, the greatest increases in energy demand have been for transportation fuels ... ..more »


A leader in wood products research for over a century, the FPL is positioning itself to become the lead Federal research facility for the application of nanotechnology in forest products ... more »

Woody Biomass Utilization

Forests in the United States contain a substantial amount of small-diameter, overstocked, and underutilized material.FPL research projects are exploring the potential of the small-diameter ... ..more »