Debate Heats up Over Wood High Rises >

Debate Heats up Over Wood High Rises
Emily Pollock posted on September 13, 2018 |

The construction of UBC’s Brock Commons, currently Canada’s tallest mass timber building. This fall, the International Code Council is set to vote on a new set of standards for tall wooden buildings like it. (Image courtesy of Rob Kruyt.)

The International Code Council (ICC) will vote this fall on whether it will support a code change allowing the construction of wooden buildings that are 9-20 stories tall, but controversy still swirls around the movement.

Mass timber buildings are either wholly or partially made from wooden members over an inch thick. Techniques for creating these members include glue-laminated timber, where several layers of wood are laminated together to form a sturdier whole, and cross-laminated timber, which is the same as glue-laminated timber, but involves the wood layers being laminated together perpendicular to each other, much like layers in a Jenga tower. Advocates of mass timber say that the thickness of the wood protects it against burning in a way that more typical, stick-built construction doesn’t provide.

In 2015, the ICC established the Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings (TWB) to study the science and safety of tall mass timber buildings. Since then, the ICC has been developing proposed revisions for the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). This April, the committee approved several tall mass timber code proposals, with three…

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