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.