BNP Engineering News-Record Architectural Record

Fire Protection in Wood Buildings

Expanding the possibilities of wood design

June 2013
Sponsored by reThink Wood, the American Wood Council and U.S. WoodWorks

By Jeffrey B. Stone, Ph.D. Based on the Code Conforming Wood Design Series by the American Wood Council and International Code Council

Continuing Education

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this month’s Continuing Education article.

Learning Objectives - After reading this article, you will be able to:

  1. Analyze fire protection in wood buildings in terms of compliance with the 2009 International Building Code (IBC).
  2. Discuss the fundamentals of passive and active fire protection.
  3. Determine allowable wood use in buildings in accordance with the 2009 IBC.
  4. Describe provisions in the IBC for increasing the height and area of wood buildings beyond the base tabular amounts.
  5. Identify and select tested fire-rated wood-frame assemblies or, to use non-listed assemblies, calculate the fire endurance of load bearing and non-load bearing wood assemblies using the Component Additive Method (CAM).

Credits: 1.00 HSW

This course was approved by the GBCI for 1 GBCI CE hour(s) for LEED Credential Maintenance.

This test is no longer available for credit

Wood construction offers economic, performance and environmental advantages not typically found with other structural materials. Wood is cost effective, versatile and adaptable. It's renewable and has a light carbon footprint. It also has a proven record for safety, evidenced by its use not only in 90 percent of all U.S. home construction but in some of today's most innovative non-residential architecture.

In terms of fire protection, building codes require all buildings to perform to the same level of safety regardless of materials. Wood buildings can be designed to meet rigorous standards for performance, which is why the International Building Code (IBC) allows the use of wood in a wide range of building types—including structures that are taller and have more area than some designers realize.

This CEU provides an overview of fire protection in wood buildings with a focus on compliance with the 2009 IBC, and is based on the Code Conforming Wood Design Series developed by the American Wood Council (AWC) and the International Code Council. Building fire safety incorporates a combination of passive and active features. A passive fire safety feature may limit the height and area of the building, prescribe the use of fire-rated building elements or provide for adequate means of egress. Active fire safety features are those such as automatic fire detection or suppression systems that provide occupant notification, alarm transmittance and the ability to suppress fire growth until the fire service arrives. Codes are relying increasingly on active systems, since, with proper maintenance and alarm supervision, they have a high degree of reliability. This CEU covers the fundamentals of passive and active fire protection. It includes a summary of allowable wood use in buildings in accordance with the 2009 IBC, emphasizing the design flexibilities permitted for wood in non-residential and multifamily construction.

The Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments in San Francisco includes four stories of wood-frame construction over one story of concrete.

Architect: David Baker Architects. Structural engineer: Structural Design Engineers. Photo: Bruce Damonte.


Originally published in the June 3, 2013 issue of Engineering News-Record
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