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Cement industry issues caution about higher wood frame buildings

After a massive inferno enveloped a four-storey building under construction in Kingston, Ontario, the Cement Association of Canada quickly issued a press release voicing extreme caution about changing the National Building Code to permit higher...


After a massive inferno enveloped a four-storey building under construction in Kingston, Ontario, the Cement Association of Canada quickly issued a press release voicing extreme caution about changing the National Building Code to permit higher wood structures. The fire, which occurred on December 17, produced an inferno with flames reaching high into the sky. Millions watched the dramatic helicopter rescue of a crane operator who was dangling for an hour over the fire

The week before the Kingston fire occurred, the Cement Association had launched a campaign against proposed changes to the National Building Code of Canada that would permit the construction of five and six storey wood frame buildings.

Now the association issued another press release. In it, Michael McSweeney, the CAC’s president and chief executive officer, said: “This fire is yet another example of the risks inherent to wood construction, especially during the construction phase.”

He continued: “While some are so focused on pushing forward with changes to increase the height of wood buildings in the building code, the real focus should be on whether current safety provisions for four storey wood buildings are in fact sufficient. This wood building in Kingston required additional fire fighting support, a helicopter rescue, resulted in evacuations in the community and caused fires in other buildings. How much worse could this have been had this wood structure been any higher?”

In response to the proposed changes to the 2010 National Building Code of Canada that would permit the construction of five and six storey wood frame buildings, the CAC recommends that the following provisions be included:

– non-combustible stairwells and elevator shafts to provide a safe areas of refuge for firefighters and building occupants;

– non-combustible exterior cladding and roofing to protect occupants and reduce the risk to adjacent buildings;

– the installation of automatic sprinkler systems as construction progresses to mitigate the spread of fire;

– a minimum level of non combustible fire separation to prevent fire from spreading between adjoining wood frame buildings; and

– that the safety of firefighters be recognized and addressed in building codes.