Safety concerns over wood-frame construction raised after Raleigh apartment fire

The unfinished building was destroyed in a five-alarm blaze.

March 28, 2017 |

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After a massive five-alarm fire destroyed a partially constructed five-story, 241-unit, $51 million apartment building in Raleigh, the safety of wood-frame construction came under scrutiny.

The blaze also caused minor damage of a neighboring wood-framed, multi-family building and forced the evacuation of its residents. The Raleigh News & Observer subsequently published an extensive report on the pros and cons of wood-framed structures, interviewing professionals in the design and construction industry and developers.

The building, a pedestal structure with a poured-concrete first level and four stories of wood-frame construction above, was about 40% complete—making it vulnerable to fire. The president of Raleigh’s firefighter union told the newspaper that wood-frame buildings are safe once finished and after sprinklers installed. Before then, the structures are like a four-story lumber yard, the firefighter told the News & Observer.

North Carolina adopted a change to the national building code in 2009 that increased the number of wood-frame stories that can be built on a pedestal or slab from four to five.

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