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American Institute of Architects certifies fire-safe high-density wooden buildings through Green CE class

Cross-laminated timber is becoming popular as a construction material for its ability to withstand earthquakes — albeit in an area historically built with bricks to withstand fire after learning that lesson pretty quickly.

Now, the AIA is offering a course for architects on how to make sure CLT can withstand smoke and fire, too, through Green CE, a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Education Partner and an AIA Education Provider that offers educational courses for architects, engineers, interior designers and contractors.

Fire suppression expert Steve Conboy has been teaching the course on creating high-density wooden buildings that are safer from fire and smoke. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: FILE PHOTO - Currently under construction in the Pearl District, Framework is a cross-laminated timber (CLT) trendsetter, set up to be the tallest CLT building in the nation.

"Using fire-defended lumber products changes the game regarding safety, improves affordability and is unquestionably more environmentally sustainable," said Conboy. "Today, cities and states around the world are struggling with a lack of affordable housing. We cannot meet their goals with steel and concrete alone. While untreated wood has resulted in countless catastrophic fires, driving up insurance costs and causing many cities to ban large-scale wood construction, the new green technology of advanced fire inhibitors changes that, which is why GreenCE's educational platform is in such demand."

Conboy is the general manager and chairman of Mighty Fire Suppression, Inc., which is developing and supplying cost-effective green methodologies for mass timber CLT high-rises, multi-story wood-stick frame construction, and environmentally safe wildfire inhibitors.

His new class was first introduced in November 2017, and within the three months since more than 900 architects, engineers and construction specialists have already completed the course.

It offers a critical historical review of wood-frame residential construction and illustrates to architects, engineers and construction specialists the advances in building technology now available.

This layer of fire resistance technology taught is supposed to be cost-effective and to allows all types of lumber-constructed buildings — including CLT and Nail Laminated Timber — to become much safer for more densely-populated residential and commercial development.

"As an engineer, I fully support the way this technology is defending wood structures from fire because our industry has never made this type of protection so affordable," said Thomas Curry, president of Performance Plus Engineering, who completed the course. "It makes the decision to use it easy."

With Framework in the Pearl District, Portland has been a leader in the development of tall wood-frame buildings, which have the potential to fulfill the need for high-density affordable housing. Other Portland-area mass timber buildings of note include the First Tech Federal Credit Union building coming online in Hillsboro, the Con-way Leland James Center, 38 Davis and Carbon12.

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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