With a proven record of safety and performance, mass timber construction is resilient in the face of disaster, including fire, seismic and high winds. Wood's structural performance capabilities make it appropriate for a broad range of applications, from small structures to the larger and heavier mass timber systems where long spans and tall walls are required, such as arenas and schools.
A wide range of research, professional expertise and built projects concerning wood design and construction also provide regulators and safety professionals the science-based information needed to develop building codes and training materials to minimize danger to life from the effects of fire and natural disaster events during construction and occupancy.
Wood-frame, wood-hybrid and mass timber construction and building systems have proven safety and performance records for fire protection, and wood buildings can be designed to meet fire-resistance ratings. The addition of sprinkler systems, fire-resistance-rated wall and floor/ceiling assemblies, and open spaces around the building can be used to increase the allowable size of wood structures.
Wood is significantly less heat-conductive than steel or concrete. Heavy and mass timbers have a particular advantage in a fire because they char on the outside while retaining strength, slowing combustion and allowing time to evacuate the building. Mass timber construction combines the beauty of exposed wood with the strength and fire resistance of mass timber products.
Years of research and building code development have proven that wood-frame and hybrid structures can meet or exceed the most demanding earthquake design requirements. Forces in an earthquake are proportional to the structure’s weight and wood is substantially lighter than steel or concrete. The fact that wood buildings tend to have numerous nail connections means they have more load paths and there is less chance the structure will collapse should some connections fail. This also leads to inherent flexibility, which helps to dissipate energy when faced with the sudden loads of an earthquake or high wind event.
All buildings are at risk of experiencing damage during high winds. Each structure, with its own unique set of characteristics such as stiffness, strength and shape, reacts differently to wind loads. Wood's light weight and flexibility make it ideal for areas prone to high wind. One of wood’s characteristics is that it can carry substantially greater maximum loads for short durations, as is the case during high wind events. There are a number of impacts that B.C. may experience because of climate change, including an increase in extreme weather events such as wind. Designing for extreme wind events is an adaptation to manage the risked posed by climate change.
Wood is strong and most wood-frame, mass timber and wood-hybrid buildings offer the advantage of repetitive members and multiple connections. Together, this creates redundant load paths to effectively transfer wind forces from the building envelope to the foundation and soil below. When properly attached to framing, structural panels such as plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) form solid and stable roofing, flooring and wall systems. When used to form diaphragms and shear walls, these wood products are exceptional at resisting high winds.
Given wood’s performance record with regards to fire, seismic and wind, many public buildings are built to post-disaster standards utilizing wood. This ensures that these important buildings survive disasters and are available to provide post-disaster services to their communities.
In some examples, buildings include backup water supply and power supply to aid in surviving a disaster.