Risk Analysis and Alternative Solution for Three- and Four-Storey Schools of Mass Timber and/or Wood-Frame Construction

This report explores the building code related considerations of wood construction for school buildings that are up to four storeys in height. Though wood construction offers a viable structural material option for these buildings, the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC 2018) currently limits schools comprised of wood construction to a maximum of two storeys. Three- and four-storey schools and larger floor areas in wood construction require an Alternative Solution.

The report identifies key fire safety features offered by combustible construction materials including tested and currently widely available engineered mass timber products, such as glued-laminated timber and cross-laminated timber. A risk analysis identifies the risk areas defined by the objectives of the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC 2018) and evaluates the level of performance of the Building Code solutions for assembly occupancies vis-à-vis the level of performance offered by the proposed schools up to four storeys in building height.

As land values continue to rise, particularly in higher-density urban environments, schools with smaller footprints will become increasingly more necessary to satisfy enrollment demands. There are currently a number of planned new school projects throughout British Columbia that anticipate requiring either three-or four-storey buildings, and it is forecasted that the demand for school buildings of this size will continue to rise.

This report is closely related to the study Design Options for Three-and Four-Storey Wood School Buildings in British Columbia, which illustrates the range of possible timber construction approaches for school buildings that are up to four storeys in height.

Photo: Sunny Jhooty Photography | Wellington Secondary School, Nanaimo, B.C.