June 09, 2023

Wyden, Merkley: $1 Million to Oregon State University to Study Effects of Fire on Mass Timber

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today announced that Oregon State University will receive $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the effects of fire on mass timber products to determine sustainability for their increased use in new construction.

“Oregon continues to lead the way in modernizing wood products, generating jobs and economic opportunities in communities statewide,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified that Oregon State has earned these funds to further study how mass timber performs in real time so that we can keep firefighters safe while also increasing adoption of this resilient, innovative wood product. And I’ll keep fighting for similar investments in Oregon to support these valuable new sources for jobs, affordable housing and building materials.”

“Ensuring workplaces and homes across Oregon are fire safe is crucial to protecting businesses and families and their belongings, especially when disaster strikes,” Merkley said. “This funding for OSU to expand our understanding of the safety of mass timber buildings due to fire will help keep homes and communities safe.” 

Building code officials and fire marshals often present concerns that mass timber may be too combustible for use in new construction due to lack of data on how mass timber responds to fire. Oregon State will use the funds to study how mass timber decays in fire and how much carbon is emitted during a fire in order to develop solutions for firefighter safety in mass timber buildings and providing the first data related to carbon emissions for a structure. Studying the effects of fire on mass timber structures may be able to alleviate barriers of using mass timber throughout the U.S.

“Our multi-disciplinary team of researchers from OSU is excited to get started on this work to study the behavior of mass timber buildings in fire. We will be working with federal partners from USDA Forest Products Laboratory and the EPA as well as a private multi-disciplinary engineering firm, Arup. Our team aims to develop new research methods for testing mass timber in fire, and ultimately to inform engineering design solutions to design fire-safe mass timber buildings with firefighter safety in mind,” said Dr. Erica Fischer, Assistant Professor and the John & Jean Loosley Faculty Fellow at Oregon State University.