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Fire Safe Use of Wood in Buildings – Global Design Guide

By: Birgit Östman Linnaeus University Sweden, Andrew Buchanan PTL Structural Consultants New Zealand and Michael Klippel ETH Zürich Switzerland

An international guideline for the fire safe use of wood products and timber structures in a wide range of buildings has been published recently [1]. It aims to provide state-of-the-art scientific knowledge on a global level for practical applications. The guideline includes extended use of design codes and standards, practical guidance and examples of fire-safe design and principles of performance-based design.

The guideline is based on the 2010 European guideline, Fire Safety in Timber Buildings [2], enhanced with the latest outcomes from the recently completed COST Action FP1404 - Fire Safe Use of Bio-Based Building Products [3], to which many of the guideline authors actively contributed. It is also inspired by recent code changes to allow taller and larger timber buildings in Australia, Canada, Europe and the US.

Many well-known fire scientists and engineers worldwide wrote the different chapters to guarantee its quality and relevance for use in all countries, see Table 1. More than 20 expert co-authors supported the lead authors. Andrew Buchanan and Birgit Östman edited the book and Michael Klippel served as chairman of the steering committee.

Technical content

The guideline consists of 14 chapters, starting with a description of wood products and various types of timber buildings, moving on to in-depth chapters dealing with design for different fire performance criteria as shown in Table 1.

The guideline addresses structural fire engineering by providing the latest detailed guidance on structural design of separating and load-bearing elements of timber structures. It also contains guidance on design for surface flammability and prevention of fire spread. The importance of proper detailing in building design is stressed with examples of practical solutions to prevent the spread of fire or smoke. Active fire protection and building execution and control are presented as important means of fulfilling fire safety objectives.

National and international building codes in different regions of the world are compared, further details are given in [4]. The guideline is of benefit to building designers and fire engineers in all countries, educational establishments, and of special interest to code writers in countries where timber buildings are not yet widely used.

Chapter 1 Timber structures and wood products gives an overview of wood-based materials and construction techniques.

Chapter 2 Fire safety in timber buildings is a summary of design principles for providing fire safety in all buildings, with particular attention to timber construction.

Chapter 3 Fire dynamics introduces the fire dynamics of burning wood, moving from basic physics to compartment fires, and calculation methods for assessing the contribution of exposed wood to the fuel load.

Chapter 4 Fire safety in different regions gives a summary of international regulations for the fire safe use of structural timber elements and visible wood surfaces in interior and exterior applications, presented in tables and maps.

Chapter 5 Reaction to fire performance describes the systems used for compliance with prescriptive regulations in different regions for internal and external wood surface finishes.

Chapter 6 Fire separating assemblies gives design principles for timber used as fire-resistance-rated separating assemblies to provide compartmentation for life safety and property protection, including walls, floors and roof constructions.

Chapter 7 Load bearing timber provides guidance for the structural design of load-bearing timber members exposed to a standard fire, with an overview of the principles needed to predict the effect of charring and heating. Simplified design models include design models from the proposed second generation of Eurocode 5.

Chapter 8 Timber connections is an introduction to connection types, potential failure modes, and structural design methods to provide fire resistance to connections in timber buildings.

Chapter 9 Prevention of fire spread gives recommendations for design to prevent fire from spreading into, within and through timber structures, including detailing of construction joints and penetrations.

Chapter 10 Active fire protection by sprinklers covers the effects of active fire protection systems on design of timber buildings for fire safety.

Chapter 11 Performance-based design introduces concepts for performance-based fire design of timber buildings, with a summary of risk-based design methods.

Chapter 12 Robustness in fire describes general approaches and design guidance to achieve structural robustness in the fire design of timber structures.

Chapter 13 Building execution and control provides guidance for design and construction processes to ensure that the fire safety of timber buildings is maintained during and after construction.

Chapter 14 Firefighting considerations describes firefighting practices that may differ in timber buildings compared with other structural building systems, and addresses concerns of fire services specific to timber building construction.

The technical content has been peer-reviewed by fire engineers, scientists and experts from various countries, providing additional international credibility and applicability.


The Global Design Guide is published both as a hard-bound book and as an open access version available for free PDF download via the Fire Safe Use of Wood website ( It is expected to be of use to a wide range of stakeholders involved in designing timber buildings, including architects, engineers, educators, regulatory authorities and the building industry.


The authors wish to thank all co-authors and a large number of colleagues and reviewers in many countries who provided much assistance. Melody Callahan did all the line drawings and managed the delivery of text and images to the publisher. We also acknowledge the large number of consulting firms, research institutions, universities and professional organisations around the world who supported this project through in-kind and financial support of authors and reviewers.


  1. Fire Safe Use of Wood in Buildings - Global Design Guide. Andrew Buchanan and Birgit Östman, Editors. CRC Press, 2022. Available at DOI: 10.1201/9781003190318-1.
  2. Fire Safety in Timber Buildings - Technical Guidelines for Europe, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Stockholm 2010. Available for purchase at E-BOK Fire safety in timber buildings | Svensk Byggtjänst (
  3. COST Action FP 1404, Documents available at
  4. Östman, B. National Fire Regulations for the Use of Wood in Buildings: Worldwide Review 2020. Report Linnaeus University, Sweden 2022. Available at


    Table 1. List of chapters and lead authors


    Lead author

    1. Timber structures and wood products

    Christian Dagenais, FPInnovations, Canada

    2. Fire safety in timber buildings

    Andrew Buchanan, PTL Structural Consultants, New Zealand

    3. Fire dynamics

    Colleen Wade, Fire Research Group, New Zealand

    4. Fire safety in different regions

    Birgit Östman, Linnaeus University, Sweden

    5. Reaction to fire performance

    Marc Janssens, Southwest Research Institute, USA

    6. Fire separating assemblies

    Norman Werther, Technical University of Munich, Germany

    7. Load bearing timber

    Alar Just, TalTech, Estonia

    8. Timber connections

    David Barber, Arup Fire, Australia

    9. Prevention of fire spread

    Esko Mikkola, KK-Fireconsult, Finland

    10. Active fire protection by sprinklers

    Birgit Östman, Linnaeus University, Sweden

    11. Performance-based design

    Paul England, EFT Consulting, Australia

    12. Robustness in fire

    Michael Klippel, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

    13. Building execution and control

    Andrew Dunn, Timber Development Association, Australia

    14. Firefighting considerations

    Ed Claridge, Auckland Council, New Zealand

    Figure 1.
    The Global Design Guide is published both as a hard-bound book and as an open access version available for free PDF download via the Fire Safe Use of Wood website (