More apartments are under construction right now in Charlotte, N.C. than ever before, and many of them are wood-framed mid-rise buildings that have prompted concerns over fire safety.
Developers are gravitating toward wood-framed apartment structures that are less costly to construct than steel-framed structures. North Carolina’s building code, patterned on the 2009 International Building Code, limits wood-framed apartments to four floors.
Advocates for mid-rise wood-frame construction say sprinkler systems and other life-safety measures required by codes make the buildings safe. But the National Fire Protection Association has warned firefighters that buildings made with trusses and engineered wood could fail and collapse more quickly than other types of buildings in a fire.
After a major fire in a wood frame apartment structure in New Jersey, a lawmaker in that state introduced a bill in 2015 to add new requirements to the state building code, including limits on height based on sprinkler type and requirements for more separation or firewalls between units. A North Carolina’s state fire marshal office told the Charlotte Observer that the proposals in New Jersey are “cutting edge” and any such changes in North Carolina likely wouldn’t be considered until 2018 or later.