Mass timber fire test reveals similar resilience as non-combustible materials

The Canadian Wood Council hosted a full-scale fire test at the Canadian Explosives Research Lab in Ottawa, with more than 150 experts present to learn about the behaviour of mass timber construction exposed to fire. Photo courtesy Canadian Wood Council

The Canadian Wood Council hosted a full-scale fire test at the Canadian Explosives Research Lab in Ottawa, with more than 150 experts present to learn about the behaviour of mass timber construction exposed to fire.

To date, the majority of exposed mass timber compartment fire tests have simulated residential occupancies. This test demonstrated the fire performance and dynamics in a typical occupied open-plan office space in a mass timber building.

The space is much larger than previous tests, both in the area and floor-to-ceiling height, complete with a large fire load of simulated furniture and other contents. The test provides insight into the fire dynamics in a larger space, typical of those seen in modern mass timber office buildings, opposed to previous research testing, which focused on smaller fire compartments with lower ventilation.

The mass timber structure withstood the full burnout once the furnishings were consumed, then the fire quickly died down and burned out. The fire largely burned out within the first hour; however, the test continued for four hours to monitor for any potential reignition.

As a research test, the structure was fitted with 400 thermocouples and radiation sensors providing information to document the fire.

The fire performance of the mass timber structure was similar to a building constructed with non-combustible materials and confirmed mass timber can perform well in very rare scenarios where the sprinkler system fails and the fire department is unable to respond.

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