Washington state to include mass timber in building codes
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law requiring the state's building code council to begin developing rules for the use of mass timber in commercial and residential construction, according to The Architect's Newspaper. The measure paves the way for state and local building departments to start including mass timber in their building codes.
- As part of its initial development, the new law mandates that Washington officials must consider upcoming changes to the International Building Code (IBC) dealing with mass timber buildings of up to 18 stories. The IBC Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings will begin hearing public comment on the revisions next month.
- Washington lawmakers are also working on legislation that would require cross-laminated timber be used in any public building 12 stories or less. If passed, it would be the first law in the U.S. requiring the use of mass timber in construction projects. The law would be a boost to the Washington timber industry, which employs more than 105,000 workers and generates $28 billion in sales each year.
Washington's willingness to embrace mass timber in such a significant way is no surprise given its ties to the wood industry. Oregon, which is home to the nation's tallest in-progress mass timber building, also has a strong timber industry, though it doesn't have legislation yet requiring its use. In other parts of the U.S., mass timber is still having to prove itself structurally sound and fire resistant enough for use in tall buildings.
In 2016, officials in Sandy Springs, Georgia passed a regulation banning the use of wood in multifamily projects more than three stories high and larger than 100,000 square feet. However, the Georgia legislature recently passed a measure that would keep the state's cities from banning the use of wood, according to Reporter Newspapers. Local officials from around Georgia are preparing to petition Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the law, citing safety concerns and claiming that the state is trying to assume control over local matters.
Typically, concerns surrounding the use of wood in high-rise construction revolve around fire safety issues. However, a building under construction at Oregon State University recently raised concerns of structural integrity.
OSU is building a new $80 million College of Forestry building and using CLT subfloor panels. Last week, one collapsed after becoming delaminated at one end. No one was injured, and existing installed panels were shored up, but OSU has suspended new installation of the panels pending the results of an engineer's investigation.
- The Architect's Newspaper Washington State is embracing mass timber construction
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