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Hazards of Heavy Timber Construction When Faced with a Fire

When it comes to fire safety in construction, understanding the hazards associated with heavy timber construction is crucial. This article aims to provide a concise review of the positive aspects and benefits of heavy timber construction when faced with a fire. We will also discuss the specific conditions where heavy timber construction can be effectively utilized.

Benefits of Heavy Timber Construction:

  1. Fire Resistance:
  • Timber has inherent fire-resistant properties due to its composition, which includes a high percentage of carbonized char.
  • Heavy timber construction provides a slower rate of heat transfer compared to other building materials, allowing more time for evacuation and fire suppression measures.
  1. Structural Integrity:
  • Heavy timber construction offers excellent structural integrity, even when exposed to fire, due to its high density and load-bearing capabilities.
  • This construction method can withstand higher temperatures for more extended periods before structural failure occurs, providing enhanced safety.
  1. Reduced Smoke and Toxic Gas Emission:
  • Timber burns predictably, producing less smoke and toxic gas emissions compared to other building materials such as steel or concrete.
  • This reduction in smoke and toxic gases enhances visibility and allows for easier evacuation during a fire emergency.
  1. Sustainability and Environmental Benefits:
  • Heavy timber construction supports sustainable practices

Exposed timber fuels the fire.

insulative protection/encapsulation, these elements contribute to the fuel load, altering the fire dynamics by increasing the duration and intensity of the fire. This is particularly significant for lining elements with large surface area (e.g. CLT floors and walls).

What hazard is frequently associated with heavy timber construction?

The primary fire hazard associated with Heavy Timber construction is the massive amount of combustible contents presented by the structural timbers in addition to the contents of the building.

What hazards dangers does a heavy timber truss roof pose to firefighters during fire ground operations?

From a fire service viewpoint truss construction is the most dangerous roof system that a firefighter will encounter (Brannigan, 1999). It is known to collapse during the early stages of a fire, and it will often cause the subsequent collapse of the front masonry enclosure wall of the structure (Dunn, 1988).

Is mass timber construction a fire hazard?

Mass Timber is Fire Resistant

During a fire resistance test of a 5-ply cross-laminated timber (CLT) panel wall, the panel was subjected to temperatures exceeding 1,800 Fahrenheit and lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes, far more than the two-hour rating that building codes require.

What happens to timber in a fire?

When exposed to the heat of a fire, timber goes through a process of thermal breakdown into combustible gases. During this process, a layer of charcoal forms on the burning surface of the timber and it is this charred layer that is the key contributing factor in timber's fire resistance.

Which type of material is frequently used in the construction of fire walls?

Building and structural fire walls in North America are usually made of concrete, concrete blocks, or reinforced concrete. Older fire walls, built prior to World War II, used brick materials. Fire barrier walls are typically constructed of drywall or gypsum board partitions with wood or metal framed studs.

Which type of collapse is common for a Type V construction building?

Lean Over Collapse: Common in type V structures, this collapse occurs when the building shifts at the upper floor area, which results in the structure leaning onto adjacent buildings or totally collapsing sideways.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 4 types of construction?

The four main types of construction are: residential construction, commercial construction, industrial construction, and infrastructure construction.

Why is timber fire resistant?

When exposed to the heat of a fire, timber goes through a process of thermal breakdown into combustible gases. During this process, a layer of charcoal forms on the burning surface of the timber and it is this charred layer that is the key contributing factor in timber's fire resistance.

What are the challenges of mass timber construction?

Three major obstacles to greater adoption of mass timber construction at scale
  • Lack of financial incentives to make the shift from concrete and steel.
  • Supply bottlenecks – with demand outweighing supply.
  • Shortage of education amongst industry players.

Which type of construction is most fire-resistant?

Type 1 structures

The most fire-resistant buildings, Type 1 structures, are constructed with concrete and protected steel, which can withstand high temperatures without collapsing.

Which type of building construction provides the highest level of protection from fire?

Type 1 construction

Type 1 construction, known as fire-resistive construction, provides the highest level of fire protection among the other four types of construction. Type 1 structures are constructed with highly durable materials to withstand high temperatures for an extended time without collapsing.

FAQ

What is the primary fire concern with Type III construction?
Void Spaces. Just like in a balloon frame house or really any wood-frame building, Type 3 buildings feature lots of void spaces created by the construction process. Combustible void spaces between floors and in the attic are places where fire can go undetected and be difficult to reach.

Which building material can best prevent or limit fire spread?

Concrete

Another commonly used building material, concrete is well-known for providing enhanced fire performance in any wall or ceiling assembly. As a noncombustible material, it prevents the spread of flames and can be used to reinforce and protect a structure.

What is likely to happen during a fire in a Type V building?

While this material is inexpensive, efficient and structurally sound, it is not fire-resistant and these buildings can collapse minutes after a fire starts. Firefighters can efficiently ventilate Type 5 buildings because of their wood-framed roofs, but the risk of collapse or flashover is very high.

What is the purpose of scuppers in heavy timber construction?

In heavy timber construction, scuppers play a crucial role in managing water accumulation on roofs and decks. They are specifically designed to provide drainage for rainwater or other liquids that may collect on these surfaces.

Which condition found in type IV construction is known to affect fire behavior?

Type IV construction buildings may contain a number of conditions that can af- fect their behavior during a fire: The high concentration of wood can contribute to the intensity of a fire once it starts. Collapse of masonry walls can be caused by loss of structural integrity of timbers.

Hazards of heavy timber construction when faced with a fire

What condition often found in type 3 construction? Void Spaces. Just like in a balloon frame house or really any wood-frame building, Type 3 buildings feature lots of void spaces created by the construction process. Combustible void spaces between floors and in the attic are places where fire can go undetected and be difficult to reach.

What are the benefits of using timber in high rise buildings? Benefits of using timber in construction
  • It is readily available. Timber is a natural material used in many forms for building and construction.
  • It is safe.
  • It is easy to work.
  • It is cost effective.
  • It is versatile and visually appealing.
  • It is naturally anti-corrosive.
How does heavy timber burn?

For example, in a fire, a thick plank of wood will char on the outside, sealing the interior and protecting it from damage. Wood burns slowly at approximately 0.02 inches/minute and the char created on the wood surface as it burns helps protect and insulate the unburnt wood below and maintain the structure.

What is the behavior of timber when it is lit on fire?

When exposed to the heat of a fire, timber goes through a process of thermal breakdown into combustible gases. During this process, a layer of charcoal forms on the burning surface of the timber and it is this charred layer that is the key contributing factor in timber's fire resistance.

  • Which factors affect how wood burns in a fire?
    • External factors having an influence on ignition are the intensity of heat exposure and its form of effect (e.g. the distance of flames from the surface). The moisture content of wood has an effect on ignition mainly as a heat sink.

  • Can timber be used for high rise buildings?
    • Furthermore, structural timber loses some of its low-carbon benefits when used for taller buildings, according to Lawrence. In high-rise buildings particularly, wood requires extra treatment to help reduce its combustibility and improve its acoustics, but this can add to its carbon footprint.

  • What is the Charring process of timber?
    • Charring is basically a burning of timber surface (old method of preservation of timber). In this method, the timber surface is wetted for 30 minutes and burnt up to a depth of 15 mm from the top surface. The burnt surface protects the inner timber from white ants, fungi, etc.

  • What type of wood is used in skyscrapers?
    • Glulam and CLT are the most commonly used forms of mass timber, so let's take a deeper look at how they work.

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