With funding from the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, FPInnovations released a how-to energy guidebook for the design and construction of wood-frame and mass-timber buildings in Alberta before the province’s recent big announcement.
Alberta announced in January that it will give the green light for the construction of wood buildings using encapsulated mass-timber construction (EMTC) of up to 12 storeys province-wide, starting this spring. The change is in advance of the new National Building Code of Canada being released later this year, which is also expected to allow for the construction of 12 storey wood buildings.
The guide, titled “Illustrated Guide for Designing Wood-Frame Buildings in Alberta to Meet the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings,” provides solutions for the building envelope of both light-wood frame and mass-timber buildings.
Guidebook can be applied to mass-timber buildings
“This new energy guide provides a series of options for achieving the energy requirements prescribed by the new energy code,” says Dalibor Houdek, FPInnovations wood-products sector leader in the West. “While the title suggests a focus on mid-rise wood-frame construction, the mass-timber assemblies featured in the new guide could be applied to 12 storey mass-timber buildings as well. The collective knowledge captured in this publication brings practical solutions to architects, engineers and builders.”
The 40-page colour guide covers a range of wood‐based exterior wall and roof assemblies, as well as various thermal insulation materials. It also addresses key considerations for designing a building envelope with long‐term durability in Alberta’s varied climate.
Rigorous fire-safety tests for wood buildings
Mass timber is a competitive, low-carbon building material that meets performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection. However, a group representing Alberta firefighters has raised concerns in the media recently about the safety of wood buildings while under construction. Their concerns are despite scientific tests, including several done by FPInnovations researchers, that demonstrate the integrity of mass timber during a fire.
In one FPInnovations test related to the fire performance of an exit stairwell built with nail-laminated timber (NLT) in a light-frame building, a gypsum-protected NLT wall supported a 1-hour fire-resistance rating (FRR) wood-frame I-joist floor assembly. A 2.4 kPa load was applied to the floor and the assemblies were exposed to the CAN/ULC-S101 standard fire. The mass timber successfully prevented the passage of smoke and prevented temperature increase on the unexposed side, which simulated the interior of the exit stair.
Lindsay Ranger is an FPInnovations building systems scientist who was involved in the fire-performance test. Ranger says the research on fire safety is stringent: “Concerns have been raised about the fire safety of mass-timber buildings, however, rigorous research has been done by FPInnovations and National Research Council Canada to understand the fire performance of mass timber and to demonstrate that the proposed provisions for EMTC are safe.”
Leading research on building with wood
FPInnovations’ broader work supports many projects to help bring the national code changes to pass. Its scientists worked alongside the Canadian Wood Council and the National Research Council as advisors to the fire code and seismic matters. FPInnovations and its partners also produced technical resources such as the “CLT Handbook” and the “Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada.” An all-new 2019 2nd edition of the popular CLT Handbook will be released shortly.