The development of this primer commenced shortly after the 2018 launch of the Mass Timber Institute (MTI) centered at the University of Toronto. Funding for this publication was generously provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Although numerous jurisdictions have established design guides for tall mass timber buildings, architects and engineers often do not have access to the specialized building science knowledge required to deliver well performing mass timber buildings. MTI worked collaboratively with industry, design professionals, academia, researchers and code experts to develop the scope and content of this mass timber building science primer. Although provincially funded, the broader Canadian context underlying this publication was viewed as the most appropriate means of advancing Ontario’s nascent mass timber building industry. This publication also extends beyond Canada and is based on universally applicable principles of building science and how these principles may be used anywhere in all aspects of mass timber building technology. Specifically, these guidelines were developed to guide stakeholders in selecting and implementing appropriate building science practices and protocols to ensure the acceptable life cycle performance of mass timber buildings. It is essential that each representative stakeholder, developer/owner, architect/engineer, supplier, constructor, wood erector, building official, insurer, and facility manager, understand these principles and how to apply them during the design, procurement, construction and in-service phases before embarking on a mass timber building project.
When mass timber building technology has enjoyed the same degree of penetration as steel and concrete, this primer will be long outdated and its constituent concepts will have been baked into the training and education of design professionals and all those who fabricate, construct, maintain and manage mass timber buildings.
One of the most important reasons this publication was developed was to identify gaps in building science knowledge related to mass timber buildings and hopefully to address these gaps with appropriate research, development and demonstration programs. The mass timber building industry in Canada is still a collection of seedlings that continue to grow and as such they deserve the stewardship of the best available building science knowledge to sustain them until such time as they become a forest that can fend for itself.
The building industry consumes a lot of material, which causes depletion of material stocks, toxic emissions, and waste. Circular building design can help to reduce this impact, by moving from a linear to a circular design approach.
To reach a circular build environment, all disciplines should be involved, including fire safety design. However, there is a contradiction between the objectives of circular and fire safety design, either affecting the aim of protection of material sources, or protection against fire risk.
Timber is a material that has high potential in contributing to a circular building industry, as it is renewable, recyclable and can store CO2. However, timber is combustible, which increases the risk of fire. Therefore, mass timber building design has traditionally been restricted by building regulations. To enhance mass timber building design research on timber buildings has increased, to allow understanding of the risks. However, yet general guidelines or understanding on the fire behaviour and risk in timber buildings is lacking. This is a problem for the fire safety design and the potentials of timber contributing to a circular building industry.
Until now, there was no specific method available that quantifies this relation between material use and fire risk in mass timber buildings. This limits the possibility of fire safety design and mass timber design to contribute to a more circular building industry. By creating a method that allows comparison between the economic and environmental impact of material use and fire risk, a well-founded choice of building materials is easier to make.
The design tool created in this research quantifies the impact on material use for fire safety measures relating to CLT, encapsulation and sprinkler availability and their effect on the fire risk in mass timber buildings. This way insight is provided between the balance of material use and fire risk. By the sum of the impact on material use and fire risk, the total “circular fire safety impact” value is calculated. This value represents the total economic and environmental impact of the design based on the choice of building materials. By changing the fire safety design, the most optimal design variant can be determined. This is the variant with the lowest total impact value.
This way, a circular design approach is used to steer fire safety design in mass timber buildings towards a design solution that does not only provide sufficient safety for people, but also provides maximum economic and environmental safety from a material point of view.
This InfoNote summarizes recent research and work in progress. A significant amount of fire research has been conducted on mass timber over the last 10 years in Canada. This has supported the successful design and construction of numerous low-, mid-and even high-rise wood buildings. This has also fostered the introduction of new provisions into the National Building Code of Canada which has made wood and mass timber construction more accessible. However, the fire performance of these systems remains a concern for many potential occupants or owners of these buildings, not to mention building officials and fire departments. Research at FPInnovations continues to support designers and builders in the use of mass timber assemblies by ensuring fire safe designs.
Fire safety remains a major challenge for engineered timber buildings. Their combustible nature challenges the design principles of compartmentation and structural integrity beyond burnout, which are inherent to the fire resistance framework. Therefore, self-extinction is critical for the fire-safe design of timber buildings.
This paper is the first of a three-part series that seeks to establish the fundamental principles underpinning a design framework for self-extinction of engineered timber. The paper comprises: a literature review introducing the body of work developed at material and compartment scales; and the design of a large-scale testing methodology which isolates the fundamental phenomena to enable the development and validation of the required design framework.
Research at the material scale has consolidated engineering principles to quantify self-extinction using external heat flux as a surrogate of the critical mass loss rate, and mass transfer or Damköhler numbers. At the compartment scale, further interdependent, complex phenomena influencing self-extinction occurrence have been demonstrated. Time-dependent phenomena include encapsulation failure, fall-off of charred lamellae and the burning of the movable fuel load, while thermal feedback is time-independent. The design of the testing methodology is described in reference to these fundamental phenomena.
Concealed spaces, such as those created by a dropped ceiling in a floor/ceiling assembly or by a stud wall assembly, have unique requirements in the International Building Code (IBC) to address the potential of fire spread in nonvisible areas of a building. Section 718 of the 2018 IBC includes prescriptive requirements for protection and/or compartmentalization of concealed spaces through the use of draft stopping, fire blocking, sprinklers and other means.
The 2021 International Building Code (IBC) introduced three new construction types—Type IV-A, IV-B and IV-C—which allow tall mass timber buildings. For details on the new types and their requirements, see the WoodWorks paper, Tall Wood Buildings in the 2021 IBC – Up to 18 Stories of Mass Timber. This paper builds on that document with an in-depth look at the requirements for shaft walls, including when and where wood can be used.
This manual is helpful for experts and novices alike. Whether you’re new to mass timber or an early adopter you’ll benefit from its comprehensive summary of the most up to date resources on topics from mass timber products and applications to tall wood construction and sustainability.
The manual’s content includes WoodWorks technical papers, Think Wood continuing education articles, case studies, expert Q&As, technical guides and other helpful tools. Click through to view each individual resource or download the master resource folder for all files in one handy location. For your convenience, this book will be updated annually as mass timber product development and the market are quickly evolving.
Changes to the 2021 International Building Code (IBC) have created opportunities for wood buildings that are much larger and taller than prescriptively allowed in past versions of the code. Occupant safety, and the need to ensure fire performance in particular, was a fundamental consideration as the changes were developed and approved. The result is three new construction types—Type IV-A, IV-B and IV-C—which are based on the previous Heavy Timber construction type (renamed Type IV-HT), but with additional fire protection requirements.
One of the main ways to demonstrate that a building will meet the required level of passive fire protection, regardless of structural materials, is through hourly fire-resistance ratings (FRRs) of its elements and assemblies. The IBC defines an FRR as the period of time a building element, component or assembly maintains the ability to confine a fire, continues to perform a given structural function, or both, as determined by the tests, or the methods based on tests, prescribed in Section 703.
FRRs for the new construction types are similar to those required for Type I construction, which is primarily steel and concrete. They are found in IBC Table 601, which includes FRR requirements for all construction types and building elements; however, other code sections should be checked for overriding provisions (e.g., occupancy separation, shaft enclosures, etc.) that may alter the requirement.
Building elements are required to provide sufficient fire resistance based on requirements set forth in the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC). Annex B of the Canadian standard for wood engineering design (CSA O86-19) provides a design methodology to calculate the structural fire-resistance of large cross-section timber elements. However, it lacks at providing design provisions for connections. The objectives of this study are to understand the fire performance of modern mass timber fasteners such as self-tapping screws, namely to evaluate their thermo-mechanical behavior and to predict their structural fire-resistance for standard fire exposure up to two hours, as would be required for tall buildings in Canada. The results present the great fire performance of using self-tapping screws under a long time exposure on connections in mass timber construction. The smaller heated area of the exposed surface has limited thermal conduction along the fastener’s shanks and maintained their temperature profiles relatively low for two hours of exposure. Based on the heat-affected area, the study presents new design principles to determine the residual length of penetration that would provide adequate load-capacity of the fastener under fire conditions. It also allows determining safe fire-resistance values for unprotected fasteners in mass timber construction exposed up to two hours of standard fire exposure.
This paper is intended for developers and owners seeking to purchase insurance for mass timber buildings, for design/construction teams looking to make their designs and installation processes more insurable, and for insurance industry professionals looking to alleviate their concerns about safety and performance.
For developers, owners and design/construction teams, it provides an overview of the insurance industry, including its history, what affects premiums, how risks are analyzed, and how project teams can navigate coverage for mass timber buildings. Insurance in general can seem like a mystery—what determines premium fluctuations, impacts of a strong vs. weak economy, and the varying roles of brokers, agents and underwriters. This paper will explain all of those aspects, focusing on the unique considerations of mass timber projects and steps that can be taken to make these buildings more insurable.
For insurance brokers, underwriters and others in the industry, this paper provides an introduction to mass timber, including its growing use, code recognition and common project typologies. It also covers available information on fire performance and post-fire remediation, moisture impacts on building longevity, and items to watch for when reviewing specific projects.
The overall objective of this work is to expand options for designers of mass timber buildings by reducing the dependence on concrete and gypsum board though the demonstration of adequate fire performance of mass timber assemblies.
This work is intended to demonstrate that mass timber surfaces can be left exposed in concealed spaces, under certain conditions, while still performing well to control flame spread; this could result in significant savings in construction. Flame spread testing will be completed to compare the performance of mass timber assemblies and concealed space designs that are currently allowed by the NFPA 13 to be exempt from the installation ofsprinklers.
Data is needed to support the use of exposed mass timber in concealed spaces by demonstrating limited flame spread in concealed mass timber void spaces. Flame spread testing has already shown that mass timber has lower flame spread ratings than typically found with thinner wood panels. This will lead the way in allowing unsprinklered 305 mm (12 in.) deep concealed spaces beneath mass timber assemblies or exposed mass timber in other concealed spaces such as hollow wood floor beams.
The goal is to generate data to support the use of exposed mass timber in concealed spaces. This data could be used in an Alternative Solution to gain approval for this type of design. Ultimately, this could lead to changing the NBCC to allow exposed mass timber in concealed spaces.
It is fairly common for mid-rise wood buildings to include shaft walls made from other materials. However, wood shaft walls are a code-compliant option for both light-frame and mass timber projects—and they typically have the added benefits of lower cost and faster installation.
This paper provides an overview of design considerations, requirements, and options for light wood-frame and mass timber shaft walls under the 2018 and 2021 IBC, and considerations related to non-wood shaft walls in wood buildings.
"This report presents the findings from a simulation parametric study to investigate the use of water mist systems for a residential compartment fire involving exposed mass timber structures. The fire and suppression models were first validated against experimental data obtained from the NRC fire tests that were conducted under the same project. Seventeen simulations were conducted using Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS) software. The following parameters were investigated: effect of fuel arrangement and location on fire severity in exposed wood compartment, effect of different finishing on fire severity in compartment, fire and suppression in open space vs compartment, effectiveness of water mist systems in fire suppression in compartments with different finishing. The results show the effectiveness of the water mist system in suppressing the fire in exposed wood compartments where a high heat release is expected due to the high fuel load"--Executive summary, page iv.
For many years, exposed heavy timber framing elements have been permitted in U.S. buildings due to their inherent fire-resistance properties. The predictability of wood’s char rate has been well-established for decades and has long been recognized in building codes and standards. Today, one of the exciting trends in building design is the growing use of mass timber—i.e., large solid wood panel products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and nail-laminated timber (NLT)—for floor, wall and roof construction. Like heavy timber, mass timber products have inherent fire resistance that allows them to be left exposed and still achieve a fire-resistance rating. Because of their strength and dimensional stability, these products also offer an alternative to steel, concrete, and masonry for many applications, but have a much lighter carbon footprint. It is this combination of exposed structure and strength that developers and designers across the country are leveraging to create innovative designs with a warm yet modern aesthetic, often for projects that go beyond traditional norms.
This paper has been written to support architects and engineers exploring the use of mass timber for commercial and multi-family construction. It focuses on how to meet fire-resistance requirements in the International Building Code (IBC), including calculation and testing-based methods. Unless otherwise noted, references refer to the 2018 IBC.
"As an alternative option to conventional sprinkler system, water mist systems are considered for the protection of timber buildings because they use much less amounts of water compared to sprinkler systems. The effectiveness of high pressure water mist (HPWM) and low pressure water mist (LPWM) systems was investigated in comparison to sprinkler systems for a residential fire scenario involving mass timber structures. The most distinct characteristic of the HPWM and LPWM systems was fine water droplets generated from the nozzles, which demonstrated effective smoke cooling in the room. Although the water spray rate of the HPWM was four times lower than that of the sprinkler system, the water mist systems effectively control the fire and maintained the room tenable. Most systems (HPWM, LPWM and sprinklers) tested in this study did not prevent fire damage on the CLT walls, but the HPWM system with a wide spray angle demonstrated rapid fire suppression and protection of the CLT walls. In all tests, a large water pool formed on the floor, which appeared proportional to the total water spray discharge in each test, and the moisture contents measured on the surface and bottom edges of the CLT panels indicated that water can penetrate into the interface between the floor and the wall in a typical CLT assembly"--Executive summary, page 1.
This project assesses the fire resistance of laminated timber structural systems as wall and floor assemblies. Full-scale tests were conducted to assess structural fire resistance and charring behaviour. This research could be used to expand current fire design provisions and support inclusion of these types of assemblies into Annex B of CSA O86.
This index is a compilation of connections used in mass timber construction. Mass timber elements are solid wood pieces with inherent fire resistance due to their mass, as defined in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). Examples of mass timber include but are not limited to cross laminated timber (CLT), dowel-laminated timber (DLT), nail-laminated timber (NLT), glue-laminated timber (GLT), mass plywood panels (MPP), and structural composite lumber (SCL) products such as laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and laminated strand lumber (LSL). Mass timber can be used as structural floors, roofs, walls, columns and/or beams. The examples in this index illustrate a broad spectrum of connections for use in mass timber construction. Depending on the unique constraints of each project, the connection choice made by the designer may be influenced by aesthetics, load carrying capacity, fire-rating requirements, quality assurance requirements, cost and/or constructability. The purpose of the index is to facilitate the designer’s selection of project appropriate connections.
The cost of connections in a mass timber structure can significantly affect the overall project cost; however, because mass timber connection design must consider not only structural design but also aesthetics, fire-rating requirements, constructability, accommodations for shrinkage and swelling, and moisture protection, finding the optimal solution can be challenging. To assist designers in this effort, WoodWorks has published an easy to use index highlighting the spectrum of available structural and architectural mass timber connections. The intent is to facilitate the selection of cost-optimal connection types while balancing other important considerations. This paper focuses on the structural connections in the index, addressing each of these considerations.