On-Site Magazine

Mass timber fire test lives up to expectations

By Adam Freill   

Commercial Construction

Fire performance of mass timber construction shown to be similar to non-combustible building products.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Wood Council)

In a full-scale fire test conducted at the Canadian Explosives Research Lab in Ottawa and hosted by the Canadian Wood Council, the mass timber structure withstood the full burnout once the furnishings of the building were consumed, then the fire quickly died down and burned out.

More than 150 experts from across Canada, including fire officials, building regulators, insurance industry representatives, engineers and architects, witnessed the unique event, which aimed to learn about and observe the behaviour of mass timber construction exposed to fire.

To date, the majority of exposed mass timber compartment fire tests have been conducted on simulated residential occupancies. This test demonstrated the fire performance and fire dynamics in a typical occupied open-plan office space in a mass timber building. Simulating an office, the space was much larger than previous tests, both in the area and floor-to-ceiling height. To get a more accurate estimation of performance, the test area included a large fire load of simulated furniture and other contents.

The CWC was happy to report that the research fire test performed as expected, and the fire largely burned out within the first hour. The test extended for an additional four hours, however, to monitor for any potential re-ignition.


To help monitor the fire, the research test structure was outfitted with 400 thermocouples and radiation sensors, which helped researchers document the fire development.

In a media announcement following the test, CWC stated, “It can be concluded that the fire performance of the mass timber structure was similar to that of non-combustible construction and confirms that mass timber can perform well under the very rare fire scenario in which the sprinkler system fails, and the fire department is unable to respond.”

More information about the fire tests and mass timber is available on the CWC’s website, www.firetests.cwc.ca.



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