Fire & Safety Considerations for Timber Construction in New York City
We will discuss the background of mass timber code adoption experience in New York City, the rationale behind various code provisions that are tailored to the city, the NYC Mass Timber Studio design competition, Governor’s Island mass timber project, and potential changes to the NYC code.
NYC Department of Buildings
The design and construction of mass timber and hybrid mass timber projects are often far from straightforward, even though the technology has been used for decades. One of the biggest challenges for architects and builders is compliance with specific code regulations regarding the use of mass timber, which often varies significantly between jurisdictions. This presentation will explore the challenges that one design team — and four build teams — ran into when delivering four unique projects: a two-storey hybrid mass timber office building for a First Nation group, a three-storey hybrid mass timber elementary school in a major urban municipality, a four-storey interconnected atrium mass timber school in a regional municipality, and a four-storey interconnected atrium mass timber post-secondary school of business in a smaller suburban municipality.
Each project represents a different Authority Having Jurisdiction, a different set of municipal building codes, and a different set of client requirements and expectations – all of which are also governed by a single provincial building code. Some of these projects resulted in as many as five alternate solutions, and each of the four represents a series of lessons learned that can be applied to a wide range of mass timber projects.
The built environment has long appreciated the tangible benefits and heuristics of mass timber. As thought leaders continue to educate the industry on sustainability, reduced labor costs and the aesthetic, many city officials — namely the fire department — have yet to discover the inherent and added fire safety measures in the International Building Code (IBC) with this construction type. Understanding the fire department’s wants, included and sometimes outside the adopted IBC codes, will aid developers in the conceptual pitch deck and approval processes with mass timber projects.
The presenter will build on the empirical success of the collaborative Ascent project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently the tallest mass timber building in the world. This presentation will educate the mass timber industry on winning the approval process with a fire chief in the room, including possible variances to exceed IBC height and other requirements.
Successful collaborations with decision makers at the municipal level are often the best part of the development story and can only help the industry and public realize wooden skylines in every city.
Deputy Chief (ret.) / Principal
Milwaukee Fire Department (ret.) / Timbrs