Project contact is Kuma Sumathipala at the American Wood Council (United States)
The United States has a vast supply of forest biomass, which provides an abundant resource suitable for the manufacturing of mass timber products. Recent research has shown that these mass timber products can be safely implemented in tall buildings. In 2018 and 2019, this research led to changes allowing the construction of 18 story buildings with mass timber structures in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). Although this development has created opportunities, it does not respond to recent architectural trends, as the new regulations do not allow for visible mass timber in buildings exceeding 12 stories in height and only allow for limited areas of visible Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) surface in buildings from 9 to 12 stories in height.
The strict limitation on the area of visible mass timber in 2021 IBC was based partially on fire performance of CLT manufactured to an earlier edition (2012) of ANSI/APA PRG 320. New adhesive qualification requirements in the 2018 standard have significantly improved the fire performance of CLT. This improved fire performance represents an opportunity to justify increases to code-prescribed limits on exposed mass timber areas which would respond to current, and likely future, architectural aesthetic demands, allowing for an expansion of the market for tall mass timber buildings.
In order to justify these increases in allowable exposed mass timber areas, compartment fire tests will be designed and performed to demonstrate that the fire performance of increased exposed mass timber surfaces are consistent with the (newly-recognized) International Building Code safety criterion. In addition, fire safe solutions for the intersections between exposed mass timber members and restoration of fire-damaged exposed mass timber are needed to be developed and tested. Test results and other findings will be used to develop and justify new requirements for U.S. model building codes, thereby enabling more innovative utilization of renewable U.S. forest resources in construction.