Building safer wood-framed high-rises

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"Currently, an exciting trend in building design is the growing use of mass timber in high-rise buildings. With advanced research on the structural fire performance of innovative building systems, mass timber tall buildings can reach heights comparable to those made of other materials such as concrete and steel.”

Sam Salem, Chair and associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Lakehead University

Building safer wood-framed high-rises

As more municipalities look to mass timber as a low-carbon alternative to existing building materials, finding innovative solutions to managing potential fires is critical.  

To help address this challenge, Lakehead University researchers, Professor Sam Salem and graduate student Cory Hubbard, have developed and tested an innovative mass timber structure that connects elements of a building together, such as steel beams and columns, that can resist fire for one hour without added protection.  

Within the mass timber connector, Salem and Hubbard have embedded steel rods so the steel beams cannot be exposed to a potential fire. Unlike mass timber which combusts when exposed to fire, steel degrades quickly, which can cause a building to burn more quickly. 

The research was conducted at the Fire Testing and Research Laboratory at Lakehead, which works closely with industry across sectors to test construction materials for fire resistance, flammability and flame spread before they are used commercially.  

Salem and Hubbard have since received a patent certificate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada with a patent pending in the United States. 

For more information, visit Lakehead University.