MEP Engineering Award of Excellence: Salesforce Tower, San Francisco

Kam Chuen (Vincent) Tse
Managing Director, Building MEP, China Region
WSP, Hong Kong

High Rise Mass Timber Construction – A Practical Discussion of Fire Safety

High-rise mass timber buildings with CLT and glulam are being planned and constructed globally. Mass timber can be a highly innovative, sustainable and efficient method of construction. With more multi-story mass timber buildings being constructed and with each one appearing to be an internet sensation, mass timber is taking center stage as the next must-have. With the push by developers and owners to use mass timber construction, codes are changing with the global demand for taller buildings.
Fire safety of mass timber buildings is primarily an issue of how the structure responds to fire. Structural fire engineering for all building materials is a complex problem and mass timber is no different from steel or concrete, in that it has inherent strengths, and weaknesses. The fire safety design of mass timber construction appears to be inconsistent in application, with significant variances globally in the fire ratings, fire protection and building outcomes. The differences in fire solutions need to be understood in the context of the local code parameters, and for some structures, questioned.
For mass timber, significant and fundamental research in structural response to fire is being undertaken and just as quickly, applied to buildings and sometimes codified at a rate never seen before. There are still several fundamental questions that are yet to be solved and many solutions that are yet to be determined by industry.
This presentation provides an overview of current mass timber fire safety, but also considers the 100 plus years of heavy timber construction that has taught us how to engineer efficiently and effectively. There are many lessons readily applicable to modern mass timber buildings.

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