Ontario Construction News staff writer
More than 150 experts from across Canada, including fire officials, building regulators, insurance industry representatives, engineers, and architects, witnessed a full-scale fire test at the Canadian Explosives Research Lab in Ottawa.
The unique event, hosted by the Canadian Wood Council, was an opportunity to learn about and observe the behaviour of mass timber construction exposed to fire.
At 40 minutes after the peak of the fire, it was self-extinguished leading to the conclusion that 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.
It was the world’s largest-ever mass timber fire test. The primary objectives was to gather data about the performance of mass timber under fire and find consensus and gather recommendations about new initiatives to expand market acceptance of mass timber and develop specific action items on behalf of the mass timber and forest industries to create a path forward in the facilitation of mass timber adoption.
The test provided insight into the fire dynamics in a larger space, typical of those seen in modern mass timber office buildings as opposed to research testing to date, which focused on smaller fire compartments with lower ventilation.
Results were “as expected” with the mass timber structure withstanding the full burnout once the furnishings of the building were consumed, then the fire quickly died down and burned out.
The fire largely burned out within the first hour, however, the test was continued for a full four hours to monitor for any potential re-ignition.
As a research test, the structure was instrumented with 400 thermocouples and radiation sensors providing information to document the fire development.
Testers concluded 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.