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New heights for timber construction when fire safety goes BIM

Published: 2020-06-24

In the latest issue of Swedish magazine Husbyggaren we had the opportunity to write about the future of timber construction and digitization. You can read a short summary in English down below.

About 70% of the land area in Sweden consists of forest so there is no wonder the timber industry is an important one. Wooden material is a resource that is constantly increasing and in addition to wood being an endless resource, it is a climate-smart material as it binds carbon dioxide and thus counteracts the greenhouse effect. Therefore it´s not surprising that more and more people are taking a closer look at timber as the main material in their new projects.

Today, forest growth is greater than its harvesting, which means that Sweden's forest assets have doubled in the last hundred years, says Swedish Wood. Many people also think that wood is aesthetically pleasing, and research shows that by being in the woods, one achieves a calming and stress-reducing effect. In Japan, the importance of the forest and nature for the human well-being has been known for decades. They introduced Shinrin-yoku (English: forest bath that simply means enjoying time in the forest). By building with timber we may create a forest-like surrounding that could contribute to more serene home- and work environments. This idea is also supported by the Wood2New project which saw that wood had positive effects on the indoor climate.

Building tall buildings in wood may give great environmental and climate benefits. Wood is a renewable, endless resource that in tall buildings in urban environment may be very surface efficient. Since timber modules and elements is light weight and may be constructed offsite it also may mean less disturbance during construction. Many would therefor see investment in timber construction as the most natural thing. To advance the development, it is up to the fire safety engineer to ensure that these timber buildings can be built and used in a fire safe manner. Fire is the natural enemy of the timber building, which is why the fire protection discipline needs to step in and take responsibility.

For us, it goes without saying that the industry needs to be better at pushing its own development and innovation. This is where digitalization may play a big role in the coming decade. The advantages of BIM and digital workflows lie, among other things, in the precision that modeling provides and that it may give the first step towards an Unbroken Chain of Information. In order for contractors and facility owners to be able to follow up a building's fire protection, it is necessary that relevant information is stored and that it is accurate, accessible and relevant over time. In a BIM-based environment this information can be saved in a smarter way, which will extend the lifetime of fire protection system and give the facility manager greater control of the fire safety in the building.

The technology for digital workflows is already on the market, Bimfire Tools is among them. What we do need, however, is established work processes across the board. Everyone within fire protection services should work more structured with fire information regardless of the level of BIM knowledge and digital maturity. Because even if the tools are available, they must be used and well understood.

We have major stages of change in front of us. The fire safety designers need to digitize their work flows, business models and increase the discipline's digital maturity. The construction industry on the other hand has to invest and understand the importance of digital fire protection, by setting demanding and welcoming digital fire safety design.

The full article was written in Swedish, you'll find it here.