Fire Safety of Mass timber Buildings with CLT in USA
Keywords:Mass timber, cross laminated timber, fire safety, fire testing, performance based design
Multistory buildings using mass timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT) as the primary structural elements are being planned and constructed globally, with interest starting to gather momentum in the United States. Model building codes in the United States limit timber construction to a building height of 85 ft (25.9 m) because of concerns over fire safety and structural performance. Up to 85 ft, the mass timber can be exposed. Architects and developers in the United States are pushing boundaries, requesting mass timber structures are constructed as high-rises and that load-bearing mass timber such as CLT be exposed and not fully protected. This provides an opportunity for the application of recent fire research and fire testing on exposed CLT to be applied, and existing methods of analyzing the impact of fire on engineered timber structures to be developed further. Fire testing has shown that exposing large areas of CLT significantly impacts the heat release rate and fire duration. This article provides an overview of the code requirements for timber construction in the United States, provides methods for building approval for a high-rise timber structure, and summarizes recent CLT compartment fire testing that is informing the fire engineering process. Methods for solutions are also discussed.
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