"Did you know that Wood Midrise Buildings have been used extensively in Europe as early as 1995?" That's one of the questions posed on the Website for Wood WORKS! - a wood manufacturing industry initiative that has been promoting the construction of taller timber-frame buildings in British Columbia. But did you also know recent concerns have been raised about a key fire safety test that, according to Wood WORKS!, "enabled changes" to allow for seven-storey timber-frames in England and Wales.
That 1999 test was conducted by the United Kingdom's Building Research Establishment - an "independent and impartial" but building industry-funded research organization - as part of a project meant to "encourage confidence" in mid-rise, wood-frame buildings.
Setting alight a six-storey structure, the establishment reported a fire brigade put out the blaze after 64 minutes.
But an article published 11 years later in the July 2010 edition of the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal drew attention to the fact that "some hours later the fire reignited in a cavity in the structure on the third floor and spread with 'abnormal rapid fire development - through cavities on floors three through to six.'"
"If it had been a real building," continued the article's author, architect and fire safety expert Sam Webb, "people would have moved back in, played with their kids, read books, watched TV and gone to bed."
Wood WORKS! was unaware of those concerns, which were raised only after it had cited the test.
A staffer for the group also stated the Building Research Establishment's work was simply being referenced as an example of another organization that had looked at six-storey wood-frame construction, adding British Columbia has more stringent fire safety regulations for such buildings.
The province increased the maximum height of wood-frames from four to six storeys two years ago despite concerns from fire fighters and American building officials.