Fire Protection Considerations with Five-Story Wood-Frame Buildings Part 1

Bruce Lindsey[1]Bruce Lindsey is the South Atlantic Regional Director for WoodWorks The Wood Products Council, which provides free project assistance as well as education and resources related to the design of nonresidential and multi-family wood buildings. Based in Charlotte, NC, Bruce’s multi-faceted career with the industry spans 20 years and includes architectural design, structural design and roles within the wood products industry related to marketing, product management, distribution, consulting and sales.

As a regional director for WoodWorks, my job is to provide technical assistance related to the design of nonresidential and multi-family wood buildings. I’ve been with the program since it launched in 2007 and, although we support a full range of building types, I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of design professionals looking for information and support related to mid-rise wood structures in particular.

Reasons for this are summed up in a recent Wood Solution Paper by my colleague, Lisa Podesto, PE, Maximizing Value with Mid-Rise Construction, in which she points out that wood-frame construction is a cost-effective choice because it allows high-density use (five stories for many residential occupancy groups, six for office) at relatively low cost, while providing other benefits such as construction speed, structural performance, design versatility, sustainability, and a light carbon footprint.1

In particular, WoodWorks gets a lot of calls from engineers designing five-story, Type III wood-frame buildings, since the structural challenges are considerably different than they are for buildings up to four stories. We provide technical support (at no cost), from conceptual design through construction of a project, helping to work through issues such as the following:

Fire Retardant-Treated Building Elements

Type III buildings are required to have fire retardant-treated (FRT) exterior walls, and designers often struggle with how to specify FRT. While preservative-treated products are typically applied under a set of prescriptive requirements according to the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) U1 standard, FRT wood is defined in IBC Section 2303.22 and differs from preservative-treated specification because treatments include proprietary formulations and application processes that instead meet a performance standard. Each of the treatment formulations has it’s own recommendations with regard to corrosion resistance of fasteners and strength reduction factors for wood members and connections. Full recommendations can be found in individual evaluation reports from FRT suppliers. Engineers might consider using the worst-case reduction factors for design to allow contractors the flexibility to source FRT from different suppliers.

Fire-Rated Wall Assemblies

While all Type III construction requires two-hour fire-rated exterior walls, it can be challenging to find tested assemblies that meet this criterion. When looking for these assemblies—and indeed all assemblies—it is helpful to keep a few things in mind:

  • Structural panels may add to fire resistance – Many assemblies may not show wood structural panels in the approved assembly, but exterior walls usually require wood sheathing for lateral resistance of the building, sometimes on both sides of the wall. The addition of wood structural panels to assemblies should not diminish the fire rating, as acknowledged in the General Notes section of the Gypsum Association Fire Resistance Design Manual, which allows their addition. The second rule in Ten Rules of Fire Endurance Rating by Tibor Harmathy, presented in the American Wood Council publication, CAM for Calculating and Demonstrating Assembly Fire Endurance, says, “The fire endurance does not decrease with the addition of further layers.” Another resource that may assist designers is the ICC-ES Evaluation Report ESR-2586, Performance Standards and Qualification Policy for Structural-use Panels, which states, “Structural-use panels may be installed between the fire protection and the wood studs on either the interior or exterior side of fire-resistance-rated wood frame wall and partition assemblies described in the applicable code, provided the length of fasteners is adjusted for the added thickness of the panel.”
  • FRT studs may be used – For Type III construction, FRT wood is also a requirement in exterior wood wall assemblies, in addition to the two-hour rating. Some two-hour-rated assemblies may not specifically state that FRT studs may be used, but the UL Guide Information clarifies that FRT may be used in place of non-treated wood in any assembly.

Fire-Rated Floor Assemblies

Both Type IIIA and Type VA construction require one-hour-rated floor assemblies. Even when using Type B, generally considered unprotected construction, with a residential occupancy, floors between dwelling units still need protection per IBC Section 711.3.

  • Floors less than 10 inches deep – As with wall assemblies, finding fire-rated floor assemblies that meet the design parameters can be challenging. In mid-rise applications, it is common for designers to go to great lengths to minimize the floor depth in order to maximize the plate height at every level and still stay beneath the overall height limit of the structure. However, there are few available UL assemblies with a minimum joist depth of less than 10-inch nominal. Designers can use either IBC Section 721 with the Deemed to Comply tables, or Section 722 on calculated fire resistance to address this issue.
  • Using structural composite lumber in floors – While a similar lack of published options is true of assemblies with structural composite lumber (such as laminated veneer lumber, laminated strand lumber or parallel strand lumber), the argument for using these products in fire-rated assemblies lies in their ICC-ES reports. The section under Calculated Fire Resistance states that the fire resistance of an exposed wood member—solid sawn, structural glued laminated timber (glulam) and structural composite lumber—can be calculated using Chapter 16 of the National Design Specification® (NDS®) for Wood Construction, which implies that the fire resistance is equal to that of solid sawn members. The structural adhesives used can withstand temperatures beyond that of wood.
  • Heavy timber corridor decking – Some designers use a heavy timber decking over corridors allowing taller plate heights and/or unencumbered area for utilities to run above a drop ceiling. This accomplishes a one-hour resistance by using char calculations for exposed wood elements as outlined in Chapter 16 of the NDS stipulated as an alternate method in IBC 722.1.

If you’re designing a mid-rise wood building and have questions—e.g., about fire and life safety, lateral and vertical loads, how to address shrinkage, etc.—I encourage you to contact your local WoodWorks regional director. The WoodWorks website (woodworks.org) also offers a wide range of technical information on mid-rise structures, and we welcome inquiries to the project assistance help desk (help@woodworks.org).

1For more information, visit www.woodworks.org/why-wood

2Information is based on the 2012 International Building Code unless otherwise indicated.

… To be continued in next week’s blog with information on details and fire rating of floor-to-wall intersections..

Deck Fasteners – Deck Board to Framing Attachments

When you’re building a deck, it’s important to know the types of fasteners you need to use with the various materials that are available. On this week’s post we explore some deck fastener applications as well as offer suggestions on how to avoid a few common problems. We will address two generic types of deck boards fastened to wood framing: preservative-treated wood and composite decking.

Preservative-Treated Wood Decking

With preservative treated wood, it pays to know the board treatment. Wood is treated with a water-borne treatment chemical (typically micronized copper azole these days) and then it is either sent out wet or it is kiln dried. Wet-treated wood can have a moisture content (MC) greater than 30%. Wood that is subsequently kiln dried to remove excess moisture after the treatment process is labeled Kiln-Dried After Treatment (KDAT) and has a MC of about 15%. Wood deck boards with preservative treatments will be labeled as such regardless of their moisture condition.

The moisture condition of the deck boards determines how best to fasten and space your deck boards. Wet wood will shrink in width and thickness after installation. As a result, you should install these boards butted tight so that gaps will emerge after they dry in place. On the other hand, KDAT wood or wood that is dry should be installed with 1/8” gaps between boards so there is a slight gap after the boards get wet and swell due to rain, ice and snow. Some manufacturers suggest using an 8d common nail for spacing when installing KDAT decking, as seen in the figure below.

Deck Shrinkage and Swelling

Deck Shrinkage and Swelling

Shrinking and swelling of any installed deck board can cause the deck fastener to bend back and forth with the MC cycling. This causes many deck fasteners to break because of the fatigue loading, which can be exacerbated by the brittle steel used in most deck screws.

To combat this problem, Simpson Strong-Tie developed the DSV Wood screw. This screw is specifically designed with increased ductility to handle the bending induced by deck board movement. It is available in a variety of lengths with threads optimized to prevent jacking between the deck board and the framing, ensuring a snug long-lasting connection.

DSV wood screw

DSV wood screw

Composite deck boards are made from a mixture of wood fiber and plastic or are entirely “plastic.” Wood plastic composites and plastic materials exhibit thermal expansion, so they expand and contract in thickness, width and length as a function of temperature and solar heating. Consequently, they typically require a special screw designed for composite decking. Screws for this application will often utilize a two-thread design. The lower thread drives the screw into the framing while the upper thread pulls the loosened composite material back into the hole and holds the deck board tight to the joist. Composite screws also have a cap-style head that covers any residual material left around the screw body and leaves a clean finish. Ductility is important to these screws too.

Given the wide variety of composite deck producers, we designed a screw that works well with all of them. The DCU screw works in all types of composite decking fastened to wood framing.

A note about cellular PVC deck boards: the manufacturers’ recommendation of stainless-steel screws restricts the use of many deck board fasteners. Be sure to read and follow the decking material fastener requirements. Simpson Strong-Tie has a broad offering of painted stainless-steel deck screws available to match PVC deck boards. Find the proper match for your board here.

For other deck fastener applications, including decking fastened to steel framing, and information about other deck fasteners available, see our website product page.

Are there other applications that you want to know about that we didn’t share here? Let us know in the comments below. As always, call us in the Engineering Department if you have questions.

 

 

Wood-framed Deck Design Resources for Engineers

This week’s blog was written by David Finkenbinder, P.E., who is a regional engineer working out of the Simpson Strong-Tie Ohio branch which services 24 states through the Northeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic. He graduated from Penn State with a B.S. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering in 2004 and earned his M.S. in Civil Engineering with a focus on Structural Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2007. His master’s thesis investigated the splitting strength of bolted connections in solid-sawn lumber and structural composite lumber. Since joining Simpson Strong-Tie in 2007, David has shown a passion for deck safety and has served on committees developing prescriptive information and building code provisions for decks. Here is David’s post.

“Decks cause more injuries and loss of life than any other part of the home structure. Except for hurricanes and tornadoes, more injuries may be connected to deck failures than all other wood building components and loading cases combined.”

This quote, taken from Washington State University’s magazine article Making Decks Safer, underscores the critical importance of proper deck design, construction, and maintenance. An engineer who is encountering their first deck may be surprised that the deck design resources available are not as plentiful as he/she might have expected. The following resources can be helpful start:

For decks built to the IRC, the book Deck Construction Based on the 2009 International Residential Code provides a review of applicable code provisions and related commentary. The book gives background on important durability considerations such as flashing at points where the deck connects to an adjacent structure. The book also briefly discusses variations with IBC provisions, which can be significant for examples such as minimum guard height and live loads.

The American Wood Council (AWC) has several tools available in addition to using the NDS for wood member and connection design. Calculators for evaluating simple span joists and single fastener connections are available in both web-based and mobile app format. Technical Report 12, which was the topic of our May blog post, provides the ability to design connections with a gap between members, or with members having a hollow cross section. AWC’s DCA6 – Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide presents information for common deck details and a commentary covering important considerations for alternate designs. While the guide is helpful, please note that it is limited in scope to single level residential decks and does not address wind or seismic design.

Researchers at Virginia Tech and Washington State University conducted laboratory testing and published information to help in several common topics needing attention. An article in the May 2008 issue of Structure Magazine featured test performance of ledger-to-band joist connections using bolts or lag screws – this information has since been adopted into the IRC.

For lateral design there has been some uncertainty regarding lateral loads that can be generated by occupants, and if the magnitude of such is significant in comparison with wind and seismic forces calculated from ASCE 7. Tests were conducted of occupants performing several types of movement on a deck floor configuration. Separate articles summarizing results for each load type were published in the Summer 2013 issue of Wood Design Focus, along with a fourth article on the lateral performance of IRC ledger attachments (online copies of the articles courtesy of Professional Deck Builder magazine: Wind Loads; Seismic Loads; Occupant Loads).

Our January 2013 post, Corrosion: The Issues, Code Requirements, Research, and Solutions, touches on the corrosion considerations that are significant for most projects as well.

Have you found any other resources that have been helpful in your designs? Let us know by posting a comment.