If some architects and designers are to be believed, the future of tall buildings has little to do with structural steel and everything to do with new timber products and engineered wood components. Wooden buildings as tall as 10 stories are under construction around the world, while others with 30 or even 40 stories are in the design phase. As the design world embraces the sustainability concepts behind tall wooden buildings, the fire protection community is raising questions around protecting such structures.
In her latest "Research" column in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, Kathleen Almand, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, looks at some of these issues, and at how this new consideration of tall wooden buildings is forcing the fire safety community to rethink some of its assumptions about fire protection. "With timber buildings, we have an "old" material transformed for use in new structural forms," she writes. "As we attempt to define the performance we expect from timber in high-rise buildings, we will also gain a more explicit understanding of some of the fundamental assumptions underlying our standards—an extremely valuable process."