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Timber Building Codes & Regulations: What to Know Now

Timber Building Codes & Regulations: What to Know Now

As with any new build or renovation, building codes and regulations affect the design and construction of a project, from the concept stage to its final details. With growing interest in, and popularity of, timber construction, the International Code Council (ICC) is regularly reviewing, revising, and expanding codes and clearances for all types of mass timber and timber frame builds. Learn more about mass timber classification types in MATF’s previous blog post.

After years of rigorous study, testing, and peer review, the 2021 International Building Code (IBC) saw many revisions and updates to mass timber building height allowances and associated fire safety requirements. The IBC is a set of comprehensive model building codes developed and published by the ICC; it provides minimum requirements for the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings to safeguard public health, safety, and general welfare. Provisions for heavy timber construction are included in its various editions.

Excitingly, revisions integrated into the 2024 IBC, which have already been voted on and approved, will expand the possibilities for tall mass timber construction. Notably, these changes will permit increased allowances for exposed timber ceilings in buildings reaching up to 12 stories.

Beyond the IBC, other types of building codes and regulations apply to heavy timber construction.

  • American Wood Council (AWC) Standards: The American Wood Council (AWC) is a nonprofit trade association that represents the wood products industry. AWC develops and publishes standards and guidelines related to wood construction and the use of wood in buildings. Its National Design Specification (NDS) for Wood Construction provides engineering data and design provisions, which help to calculate the structural capacities of heavy timber elements.
  • FSC® Certification: The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is an international nongovernmental organization that promotes responsible forest management. Since its establishment, the FSC® has promoted environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests. Mid-Atlantic Timberframes is proud to be a certified member of the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C164575).
  • Local Building Codes: Local building codes may adopt specific provisions related to heavy timber construction. Additionally, local building officials and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) play a crucial role in interpreting and enforcing these codes based on regional variations and specific project conditions.
  • National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA) Standards: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a US-based nonprofit that develops and publishes codes and standards related to fire prevention and safety. NFPA standards cover a wide range of topics, from fire protection systems and equipment to life safety, electrical systems, and hazardous materials. These standards are widely recognized and adopted by AHJs, such as local fire departments and building officials, to establish best practices and requirements for various aspects of fire safety. NFPA 5000 Building Construction & Safety Code and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code contain provisions related to heavy timber construction.

Navigating the landscape of heavy timber construction involves a thorough understanding of various building codes and regulations, each playing a pivotal role in shaping the design, construction, and sustainability of timber builds. At Mid-Atlantic Timberframes, we’re advancing the art of timber construction, and we’re here to offer our knowledge in addressing any building code or regulation questions that you might have. Contact us today to speak with our experts.

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