Full-Scale Fire Tests Prove Mass Timber Safe to Rise High!

Crucial report aids a global push to incorporate mass timber in global building standards and codes.

Thu 15 Feb 24


Fire is the number one reported risk for developers embracing mass timber construction systems, with Allianz reporting that “fire is the most expensive cause of all construction/engineering insurance losses.”

In a report published today, Allianz reports that whilst mass timber has several advantages over other materials – including cost, predictability under fire exposure and better thermal resistance, “ongoing research and testing must be conducted to evaluate the performance of structural elements during the entire duration of a fire.”

Allianz has flagged that further testing must address concerns over fire in mass timber buildings. At the present time, several research institutions are conducting research on mass timber fire safety, including Arup, who has been working with the Hazelab at the Imperial College London – footage courtesy of @WoodSolutionsAustralia.

Now, a 2023 report billed a “significant milestone in the advancement of mass timber construction”, addressing the fire risk in mid-rise and high-rise buildings, identifying how exposed mass timber can withstand severe, “unsprinkled” fire conditions.

The findings, compiled in an extensive 121-page report, “Large-Scale Fire Tests of a Mass Timber Building Structure for the Mass Timber Demonstration Fire Test Program,” confirmed that mass timber remained stable and solid after enduring five different fire tests of varying severity and duration – improving understanding of exposed mass timber elements after exposure.

“We are very pleased by the report findings, which solidify the position of mass timber as a safe construction material,” according to Robert Jonkman, Vice President of Codes and Engineering at Canada Wood Council – the country’s peak body for forest products.

“This scientific proof of mass timber’s exceptional structural fire performance helps address concerns about its suitability for larger and taller building applications.”

Led by the Canada Wood Council and in partnership with several industry associations, government agencies, and fire safety and engineering consultants, the Mass Timber Demonstration Fire Test Program is one of eight research programmes “showcasing emerging mass timber and hybrid building systems and construction processes.”

Its goal is to develop new fire performance data that can be used by developers, insurance companies, and building and safety regulators “to inform market acceptance of more significant and taller mass timber buildings in Canada (and around the world).”

To accelerate the adoption of mass timber systems, British Columbia is presently funding a number of mass timber demonstration and research projects – footage courtesy of @naturallywood.

The report published results from five full-scale research experiments within a 2-story, 334 square-metre mass timber structure at Canada’s purpose-built explosive laboratory

Inside the structure, researchers tested Glulam columns and beams, cross-laminated timber (CLT), dowel-laminated timber (DLT) and glue-laminated timber (GLT) floor/ceiling panels within an internal space “regularly updated to keep pace with advancements in innovative construction technologies.”

Data was then collected on fire performance of exposed mass timber in open-plan officers, residential buildings, fire performance under construction, and the influence of exposed timber on fire severity and duration. According to Joseph Su, lead author of the report, this can help stakeholders too:

  • Assist in the fire safety design, evaluation, and approval of alternative solutions for tall and large mass timber buildings;
  • Develop firefighting strategies for construction sites and finished buildings using mass timber and
  • Inform code development pertinent to mass timber construction.

“This marks a significant milestone in advancing mass timber construction,” according to Mr Jonkman, and comes at a time when the Trudeau government is looking to accelerate mass timber construction through changes to the National Building Code.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing to use mass timber, panalisation and 3D printing to deliver new housing on an industrial scale.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing to use mass timber, panalisation and 3D printing to deliver new housing on an industrial scale. (The Canadian Press / Alamy Stock Photo)

Yesterday, Wood Central reported that the Canadian Government is working with global engineering firm Fast + Epp to conduct full-scale point-supported testing to see if post-and-plate cross-laminated timber flooring systems could be included in the new Building Code.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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