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Testing the fire safety of tall timber buildings

Testing the fire safety of tall timber buildings

PhD Student, Hangyu Xu

Full article issued by the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub to Transform Future Tall Timber Buildings (Future Timber Hub). 

The ARC Future Timber Hub is an Industrial Transformation Research Hub leading timber research collaboration, bringing together experts from industry, government, and academia who are committed to the future development of tall timber buildings in the Pacific region. 

The Hub's research team is advancing the science of tall timber construction at multiple levels, with projects including the development of engineered wood products such as Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT).  These special wood products have multiple beneficial qualities such as a high carbon dioxide sequestration capability, naturally-insulative properties, and their use of sustainably managed plantation and prefabricated construction technologies to minimise waste and enhance building quality and performance.

One of the focuses of the research group is to manufacture products that have excellent fire safety properties, which is especially important for timber used in tall buildings, where there is a fear of massive conflagrations and fire-induced progressive collapse. A recent project has investigated the self-extinguishment mechanism of CLT in order to establish design criteria for the safe use of CLT in tall-timber buildings.

With industry partners including Hyne, XLam, QFES, Lend Lease, Knauf and Rockwool International, the team tested a large 3.4m square room with exposed CLT panels as well as panels covered with plasterboard, and exposed it to a pool of kerosene fuel, which was ignited to generate a fire that reached temperatures above 1000°C.

The kerosene fire burnt out after approximately 20 minutes, and a few minutes after the complete consumption of the kerosene, the charred CLT wall and ceiling self-extinguished without failure of the plasterboard encapsulation. This is just one of many tests being conducted to determine the fire-safety qualities of the new materials, and is building a body of evidence to guide the establishment of clear guidelines for timber-based construction, towards the optimisation of tall timber buildings in Australia.



PhD Student, Hangyu Xu in front of the fire test room. Image Credit: Future Timber Hub.

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