Fires Test Performance of Tall Wood Buildings

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wood buildings provide an array of economic and environmental benefits, and interest in capitalizing on those benefits by constructing mid- to high-rise buildings using cross-laminated timber (CLT) is growing.

CLT is made from layers of dried lumber boards stacked in alternating direction at 90-degree angles, glued and pressed to form solid panels. These panels have exceptional strength and stability and can be used as walls, roofs, and floors. Additionally, calculations have shown that a seven-inch floor made of CLT has a fire resistance of two hours.

In order for wood structures to rise above six stories without special building official permission, changes to the International Building Code are needed. It’s a tall order, but researchers from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently completed a series of fire tests that will address concerns about the fire performance of wood buildings and help take them to new heights.

In cooperation with the American Wood Council, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry program, FPL researchers recently recreated five fire scenarios in a two-story, full-scale test building constructed using CLT. The results were promising.

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