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Bills in Maryland Legislature would restrict use of wood in multifamily construction

Codes and Standards

Bills in Maryland Legislature would restrict use of wood in multifamily construction

American Wood Council and design and construction professionals are speaking out against the measure.

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | March 27, 2017

Pixabay Public Domain

Two bills in the Maryland House of Representatives that would restrict the use of wood-frame construction are getting harsh criticism from the timber industry and the design and construction community.

Maryland House Bill 1311 would prohibit a multifamily dwelling from being constructed using wood-frame construction in communities exceeding a specified population density. A similar bill has been introduced in Maryland’s Senate.

American Wood Council (AWC) Northeast Regional Manager Matt Hunter, and representatives from building owners, architecture, development, and engineering, all testified against the bill.

“These bills would circumvent the extensive effort architects, engineers, and building code officials put into the process to regularly update the national model building codes,” Hunter said. “The construction requirements of the model codes are developed by the International Code Council, and approved by building and fire officials from all over the country in a consensus process. Subsequently, Maryland adopts these model codes and requires each jurisdiction to use this building code.”

“The code establishes requirements such that all buildings have similar safety performance regardless of the materials from which they are constructed,” he continued. “There needs to be a realization that fires occur in buildings of all construction types and materials, and all buildings are affected by fire. In most instances it is the furnishings and contents brought into buildings that cause fires, so targeting wood construction in multi-family buildings is not going to improve occupant or firefighter life safety.”

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