Fire is a danger for all buildings and construction sites – regardless of building material. Fires start in the contents and furnishings we bring into our homes and offices, and occur in concrete, steel, masonry, and wood buildings alike. What’s most important is building to code to ensure safe buildings for occupants and first responders.
Building codes require all building systems to perform to the same level of safety, regardless of the material used.
The number of structure fires has trended downward over the past 40 years, falling from a peak of 1,098,000 in 1977. Since 2009, the estimated number of structure fires per year has been below 500,000 every year except for 2015. During that similar period, wood construction has steadily climbed, and today an average of 90 percent of homes are built with wood.
Wood-frame construction has a proven safety and performance record for fire protection, and the addition of sprinkler systems, fire-resistance-rated wall and floor assemblies can be used to safely increase the allowable size of wood-frame structures.
of fires in sprinkler-protected buildings were contained to one room.
In a fire, heavy timber chars on the outside while retaining strength, slowing combustion and allowing time to evacuate.
This charring effect offers increased safety and means mass timber is predictable when exposed to fire. In a fire test, a 7-inch thick wall of CLT lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes – 1 hour longer than code requirements.
Credit: David Barber | Arup
Download American Wood Council’s summary of International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) fire safety precautions during construction.