In addition to combustible, heavy timber and noncombustible construction, a new construction type is presently being considered for inclusion into the National Building Code of Canada (NBC). Encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC) is proposed to be defined as the “type of construction in which a degree of fire safety is attained by the use of encapsulated mass timber elements with an encapsulation rating and minimum dimensions for the structural timber members and other building assemblies.” EMTC is neither ‘combustible construction’ nor ‘heavy timber construction’ nor ‘noncombustible construction’, as defined within the NBC.
EMTC is required to have an encapsulation rating. The encapsulation rating is the time, in minutes, that a material or assembly of materials will delay the ignition and combustion of encapsulated mass timber elements when it is exposed to fire under specified conditions of test and performance criteria, or as otherwise prescribed by the NBC. The encapsulation rating for EMTC is determined through the ULC S146 test method.
In order for structural wood elements to be considered ‘mass timber’, they must meet minimum size requirements, which are different for horizontal (walls, floors, roofs, beams) and vertical (columns, arches) load-bearing elements and dependent on the number of sides that the element is exposed to fire.
EMTC construction in Canada is expected to be limited to a height of twelve-storeys, that is, the uppermost floor level may be a maximum of 42 m (137 ft) above the first floor. An EMTC building must be sprinklered throughout according to NFPA 13 and it is likely that some mass timber will also be able to be exposed in the suites. All EMTC elements are expected to have a minimum two-hour fire resistance rating and the building floor area to be limited to 6,000 m2 for Group C occupancy and 7,200 m2 for Group D occupancy.
There are restrictions on the use of exterior cladding elements in EMTC, as well as other restrictions on the use of; combustible roofing materials, combustible window sashes and frames, combustible components in exterior walls, nailing elements, combustible flooring elements, combustible stairs, combustible interior finishes, combustible elements in partitions, and concealed spaces.
If any encapsulation material is damaged or removed, it will be required to be repaired or replaced so that the encapsulation rating of the materials is maintained.
Additionally, requirements related to construction site fire safety are to be applied to construction access, standpipe installation and protective encapsulation.
EMTC and its related provisions are anticipated to be included in the NBC 2020.
Combustible means that a material fails to meet the acceptance criteria of CAN/ULC-S114, “Test for Determination of Non-Combustibility in Building Materials.”
Combustible construction means that type of construction that does not meet the requirements for noncombustible construction.
Heavy timber construction means that type of combustible construction in which a degree of fire safety is attained by placing limitations on the sizes of wood structural members and on thickness and composition of wood floors and roofs and by the avoidance of concealed spaces under floors and roofs.
Noncombustible construction means that type of construction in which a degree of fire safety is attained by the use of noncombustible materials for structural members and other building assemblies.
Noncombustible means that a material meets the acceptance criteria of CAN/ULC-S114, “Test for Determination of Non-Combustibility in Building Materials.”
For further information, refer to the following resources:
ULC S146 Standard Method of Test for the Evaluation of Encapsulation Materials and Assemblies of Materials for the Protection of Mass Timber Structural Members and Assemblies
Fire performance of mass-timber encapsulation methods and the effect of encapsulation on char rate of cross-laminated timber (Hasburgh et al., 2016)
CAN/ULC-S114 Test for Determination of Non-Combustibility in Building Materials
NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems