September 14, 2020
Allowances for larger and taller mass timber buildings have been approved as part of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, and, where applicable, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.
“The addition of tall mass timber provisions to NFPA 5000 and NFPA 101 ensures compatibility with the International Building Code [IBC], thereby furthering the market opportunity for tall mass timber buildings,” said Kenneth Bland, P.E., American Wood Council (AWC) vice-president of codes and regulations. “NFPA’s recognition of tall mass timber furthers the availability of a low-embodied carbon alternative compared to traditional building materials.”
NFPA undertook a three-year process to review mass timber where several NFPA technical committees, with responsibility for building construction provisions, developed new tall mass timber provisions. Issued in June, the new provisions are intended to eliminate conflicts that can occur when compliance with both IBC and NFPA 101 is required. The updated NFPA codes are expected to be available later this year.
Unlike the requirements in IBC, NFPA 5000 provisions for tall mass timber apply a factor to increase the number of stories and area above existing heavy timber limits. Additionally, levels of fire resistance and noncombustible protection are prescribed with increasing building height. Similar to the IBC approach, there are provisions for the protection of shafts, exterior walls, concealed spaces, and connections with noncombustible materials.
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