New Alberta guidebook for wood buildings

Cover of Alberta guidebook for wood buildings
Front cover of guidebook for wood buildings in Alberta.

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.”

How to get the Illustrated Guide for Designing Wood-Frame Buildings in Alberta

The Alberta guide is available to the public. To obtain a copy, please contact the FPInnovations library. Technical assistance was provided by RDH Building Science. For more information on building mid-rise structures with mass timber in Alberta, please contact Dalibor Houdek.

FPInnovations leads research on building with wood

Wood building under construction

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 have also produced leading technical resources, such the “Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada” and the “CLT Handbook.” The all-new 2019 2nd edition of the “Canadian CLT Handbook” was released on February 25.

The 2019 edition includes the new CLT provisions in the Canadian Standards Association’s Standard in “Engineering Design in Wood.” An extra chapter provides a state-of-the-art design prototype of an eight-storey mass-timber building.

Peer-reviewed and written by FPInnovations and academic researchers, as well as design- and construction-industry professionals, the “Canadian CLT Handbook” is the primary reference in North America for the latest technical and practical information on using CLT in building construction.

Copies of the  English-language “Canadian CLT Handbook” are available at French-language and U.S. editions are planned.


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