Supporting Tall Mass Timber Buildings in the IBC

Given the advancements in building science and technology, the International Code Council (ICC)—the organization that develops the International Building Code (IBC) used by virtually all jurisdictions in the United States—is set to consider changes to the IBC this fall.

Men putting in a panel on the Brock Commons project
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These changes would expand the use of mass timber for tall wood buildings up to 18 stories, a move welcomed by architects, engineers, developers and industry members across the country.

Successful mass timber composite buildings of up to 24 floors have already been approved by local officials in Austria, Norway, and Canada[1]. In the United States, at least 35 tall mass timber buildings, with more than six stories, are pending approval in 20 different jurisdictions.[2] Mass timber systems and technologies, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) have a strong body of research supporting their use in the built environment. With the growing trend toward taller wood buildings—specifically hybrid structures—gaining significant momentum, the updates to the code will help ensure IBC remains state-of-the-art.

ICC galvanized its commitment to taller wood buildings in 2016 when it formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings, a diverse group of experts including building officials, fire officials, architects, fire protection engineers, and industry professionals. Since its formation, the Committee on Tall Wood Buildings has reviewed extensive literature on tall wood buildings, including the results of domestic and international testing verifying its safety. The committee has proposed 14 code changes for the current 2021 IBC cycle. The 14 proposals will be voted on at the upcoming public comment hearings in Richmond, VA beginning on October 24, and during an online government consensus vote scheduled to begin on November 14, 2018.

You can become involved in a number of ways:

  • Get informed about the process by checking out the American Wood Council’s tall mass timber webpage which provides resources to understand the background material and context on the 14 code proposals.
  • If you work for an ICC-registered government entity and are a designated voter, you can participate in deciding the future of mass timber during the public hearings in Richmond, VA Sunday, Oct. 21 through Monday, Oct. 29. Online voting for those who aren’t able to attend in person will open approximately two weeks later.
  • Get informed about wood’s advantages when it comes to taller structures and get your free copy of the Tall Wood Survey report.
  • Learn more about latest research verifying the benefits of mass timber by visiting Think Wood’s Research Library. Discover more about building codes and tall wood and mass timber by visiting the American Wood Council and how to be part of code development by visiting the ICC website.

[1] Tall Timber: A Global Audit and Architect News, The world’s tallest timber tower structurally tops out in Norway

[2] Building Design & Construction, Mass timber comes of age: Code consideration, evolving supply chain promise new options for tall wood buildings

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