Technical University of Munich: Large-scale fire tests were conducted on the open-air grounds of the TUM’s Garching research campus

“TIMpuls” research project, led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The scientists’ objective is to establish valid basic principles for uniform regulations for the construction of multi-story timber buildings. Realistic full size fire tests confirmed that when certain construction methods are followed, tall timber buildings could even safely withstand a fully developed compartment fire.

Climate change, energy transformation, sustainability: Wood is trending as a renewable building material, with demand for timber buildings on the rise. However, wood’s ability to store carbon gives it a certain natural property: In contrast to building materials like steel reinforced concrete and masonry, wood is a combustible material. Although it is no longer only single-family houses that are built of wood, only limited legal regulations exists for the fire-safe construction of multi-story timber buildings.

“Our objective is to enable a legally compliant construction of timber buildings up to the high-rise level of 22 meters throughout Germany,” says Thomas Engel from the TUM Chair of Timber Structures and Building Construction. Together with Technische Universit├Ąt Braunschweig, Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences and the Institute of Fire and Civil Protection Heyrothsberge (IBK), the TUM research group has been working towards this goal in the project TIMpuls for approximately four years.

Fully furnished apartments simulated by test compartments
At the conclusion of the project the scientists confirmed their findings in a realistic testing at the TUM campus in Garching. They built test compartments on a 1 to 1 scale, which were then filled with wooden cribs. “Here we simulated apartments with a realistic fire loading, i.e. filled with a lot of books and furnishings,” says Engel. The tests took place on the premises of the TUM campus fire department: The project included analysis of the fire-fighting activities on the part of the fire department.

The tests examined a variety of timber construction techniques and fire protection measures, for example, the lining of solid timber walls and ceilings with plasterboard or light timber frame construction containing cavity insulation material. “Depending on the design, these measures can achieve the equivalent of steel reinforced concrete or masonry in terms of fire protection,” says Engel.