The Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation) recently released a report titled, “Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wood Buildings.” The Foundation, an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), conducted the study, which was sponsored by the Foundation’s Property Insurance Research Group (PIRG), to begin to understand the performance of tall wood buildings under credible fire scenarios to ensure the safety of the occupants against emissions and thermal hazards, as well as the property protection of the building and nearby structures.
Recent architectural trends have involved the use of engineered wood as a structural material for increasingly tall buildings. The buildings, which are cited for their advantages in sustainability resulting from the use of a renewable construction material, are constructed from wood products that include cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), or glued laminated timber (Glulam). These types of wood are being used on a variety of buildings including a newly constructed 10-story residential apartment building in Australia. Plans for taller structures in Vancouver and Norway are in development.
Claims have also been made that these structures are designed to be safer than buildings constructed using structural steel due to the formation of an insulating char layer that forms on the perimeter of a laminated wood beam when exposed to a fire. One of the objectives of the research program is to investigate these claims.