Neither the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) , nor any provincial code, such as the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC) , currently provide “acceptable solutions” to permit the construction of tall wood buildings, that is buildings of 7 stories and above. British Columbia, however, was the first province in Canada to allow mid-rise (5/6 storey) wood construction and other provinces have since followed. As more mid-rise wood buildings are erected, their benefits are becoming apparent to the industry, and therefore they are gaining popularity and becoming more desirable.
Forest product research has now begun to shift towards more substantial buildings, particularly in terms of height. High-rise buildings, typically taller than 6 storeys, are currently required to achieve 2 h fire resistance ratings (FRR) for floors and other structural elements, and need to be of non-combustible construction, as per the “acceptable solutions” of Division B of the NBCC . In order for a tall wood building to be approved, it must follow an “alternative solution” approach, which requires demonstrating that the design provides an equivalent or greater level of safety as compared to an accepted solution using non-combustible construction. One method to achieve this level of safety is by ‘encapsulating’ the assembly to provide additional protection before wood elements become involved in the fire, as intended by the Code objectives and functional statements (i.e., prolong the time before the wood elements potentially start to char and their structural capacity is affected). It is also necessary to demonstrate that the assembly, in particular the interior finishes, conform to any necessary flame spread requirements.
The Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada  recommends designing a tall wood building so that it is code-conforming in all respects, except that it employs mass timber construction. The guide presents various encapsulation methods, from full encapsulation of all wood elements to partial protection of select elements. National Research Council Canada (NRC), FPInnovations, and the Canadian Wood Council (CWC) began specifically investigating encapsulation techniques during their Mid-Rise Wood Buildings Consortium research project, and demonstrated that direct applied gypsum board, cement board and gypsum-concrete can delay the effects of fire on a wood substrate .
There is extensive data on the use of gypsum board as a means of encapsulation for wood-frame assemblies and cold-formed steel assemblies. However, tall wood buildings are more likely to employ mass timber elements due to higher load conditions, requirements for longer fire resistance ratings, as well as other factors. There is little knowledge currently available related to using gypsum board directly applied to mass timber, or in other configurations, for fire protection. Testing performed to date has been limited to direct applied Type X gypsum board using standard screw spacing, and showed promising results [5, 6, 7]. This represents an opportunity for other configurations that might provide enhanced protection of wood elements to be investigated.
Being able to provide equivalent fire performance of assemblies between non-combustible and combustible construction will thus improve the competiveness of tall timber buildings by providing additional options for designers.
In 2015, the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC)  adopted prescriptive provisions to allow the construction of mid-rise (5- and 6-storey) buildings using combustible construction. These types of buildings were already permitted under the British Columbia Building Code, as of 2009 . In2014 the Province of Ontario filed an amendment to also allow mid-rise wood buildings, however, it required that the exit fire separations be built using noncombustible construction having a fire resistance rating (FRR) of not less than 1.5-hr, which was an increase from the 1-hr requirement in the NBCC. The Québec Construction Code has also filed amendments to allow mid-rise wood construction and also limits exit stairwells to use noncombustible construction.
FPInnovations conducted a research project to study the construction of mid-rise wood exit shafts in Ontario and Québec. The scope of the project included an investigation into the concerns that have been raised in regards to the use of wood exits in mid-rise buildings, an analysis of recent Canadian fire statistics in residential multi-family structures, and a fire demonstration of a mass timber wall and supported light-frame floor. This report describes the fire demonstration completed as part of this project; this report acts as a supplement to the full project report.
FPInnovations carried out a survey with consultants and researchers on the use of analytical models and software packages related to the analysis and design of mass timber buildings. The responses confirmed that a lack of suitable models and related information for material properties of timber connections, in particular under combination of various types of loads and fire, was creating an impediment to the design and construction of this type of buildings. Furthermore, there is currently a lack of computer models for use in performance-based design for wood buildings, in particular, seismic and fire performance-based design.
In this study, a sophisticated constitutive model for wood-based composite material under stress and temperature was developed. This constitutive model was programmed into a user-subroutine and can be added to most general-purpose finite element software. The developed model was used to model the structural performance of a laminated veneer lumber (LVL) beam and a glulam bolted connection under force and/or fire. Compared with the test results, it shows that the developed model was capable of simulating the mechanical behaviour of LVL beam and glulam connection under load and/or fire with fairly good correlation.
With this model, it will allow structural designers to obtain the load-displacement curve of timber connections under force, fire or combination of the two. With this, key design parameters such as capacity, stiffness, displacement and ductility, which are required for seismic or fire design, can be obtained.
It is recommended that further verification and calibration of the model be conducted on various types of wood products, such as CLT, glulam, SCL and NLT, and fasteners, e.g. screw and rivet. Moreover, a database of the thermal and structural properties of the wood members and fasteners that are commonly used in timber constructions need to be developed to support and facilitate the application of the model.
The objective of this research is to address a knowledge gap related to fire performance of midply shear walls. Testing has already been done to establish the structural performance of these assemblies. To ensure their safe implementation and their broad acceptance, this project will establish fire resistance ratings for midply shear walls. Fire tests will provide information for the development of design considerations for midply shear walls and confirm that they can achieve at least 1-hour fire-resistance ratings that are required for use in mid-rise buildings.
This research will support greater adoption of mid-rise residential and non-residential wood-frame construction and improve competition with similar buildings of noncombustible construction. This work will also support the development of the APA system report for midply walls, which will be a design guideline for using midply walls in North America.
One of the latest technological advancements under development is the aerial intelligence-gathering platform. The platform combines geo-referenced images (infrared and colour) with real-time telemetry. Data can be transferred to a fire centre, an incident command post, and hand-held devices. In 2010, FPInnovations conducted an analysis for the British Columbia Wildfire Management Branch to identify the branch’s data collection needs and priorities that might be addressed by this latest technology. This is a directed research project and the results belong to British Columbia Wildfire Management Branch. Please contact Jim Thomasson for details.
Current forest management policy in many jurisdictions in North America manages excess woody debris by piling and burning it, mainly as a post-harvest fire hazard abatement obligation. This study highlights three key points to consider regarding utilization and disposal of waste wood piles:
1) Allocate most woody debris waste to the biofuels sector in a cost-effective manner;
2) Allocate a small portion of woody debris (e.g. 10-15%) to implement windrow habitats where necessary to maintain mammalian biodiversity on clearcuts;
3) Limit burning of waste wood to those sites near human activity (potential fire hazard) that do not have an opportunity for biofuels or windrow purposes.
The key objective of this study is to analyze full-scale fire-resistance tests conducted on structural composite lumber (SCL), namely laminated veneer lumber (LVL), parallel strand lumber (PSL) and laminated strand lumber (LSL). A sub-objective is to evaluate the encapsulation performance of Type X gypsum board directly applied to SCL beams and its contribution to fire-resistance of wood elements.
The test data is being used to further support the applicability of the newly developed Canadian calculation method for mass timber elements, recently implemented as Annex B of CSA O86-14.
The objective of this fire history study was to investigate whether the current practices are the appropriate strategy in terms of the fire risk created by the top-piles and to provide this information to policy makers to assist in future decisions.
FPInnovations Forestry group has developed a variety of computer-based systems or tools to aid forestry practitioners with decision making in harvest operations. These information systems, aptly called Decision Support Systems (DSS), allow the simulation of operational decisions using software applications. With these simulations, the outcomes of operational decisions can be promptly forecasted. DSSs thus allow users to compare the feasibility and economic value of different potential operational decisions.