AWC Responds to Boston Globe Article

The article, “Hidden dangers: Some of today’s building techniques worry fire experts,” left the reader questioning the fire safety of modern wood frame construction. It is unfortunate the author failed to do his homework and talk to the experts from the National Fire Protection Association, located in Quincy, MA. Fire experts, including those at NFPA, have studied the science and fire testing, which inform the ICC mass timber code provisions under consideration now in Massachusetts, as well as the 2021 NFPA Building Construction and Safety Code, which allows for tall mass timber structures up to 24 stories!

Since 2014, the Massachusetts Statewide Building Code has had provisions to ensure the equivalent performance of lumber floors and engineered wood floors in residential buildings. In fact, the U.S. fire service supported the provisions and Mr. Corbett, who is quoted, was instrumental in these discussions. Conflating products used in low-rise construction with emerging opportunities for mass timber is nonsense and he knows it.

The purpose of this article is clearly to confuse and misinform the reader on the fire performance of mass timber construction. Mass timber construction is fire resistance rated, using the same fire test as steel and concrete. This new breed of mass timber buildings has greater fire resistance requirements than noncombustible buildings of the same height. New building code allowances for tall mass timber buildings are being rapidly adopted across the country. Surely, Massachusetts officials will embrace the safety and sustainability of mass timber construction.

Kenneth P. Bland
American Wood Council