Washington, D.C. — American Wood Council (AWC) Northeast Regional Manager Matt Hunter, BCO, testified in opposition of Maryland House bill HB 1472, “Fire Safety Construction Act of 2016.” The legislation was introduced by House Delegate Talmadge Branch (D) to address incendiary fires that occurred in and around Baltimore last year.
HB 1472 would prohibit a multifamily dwelling from being constructed using wood-frame construction in municipal jurisdictions exceeding a specified population density. In less dense population centers, although permitted, the use of wood frame construction would be severely limited.
AWC testified that the bill could result in a ban of wood construction, with no discernible benefits to the residents of Maryland except higher construction costs, more expensive housing, and higher rents in a market desperately seeking affordable housing.
Testimony excerpt: “AWC opposes HB 1472 and we believe it will result in no improvement in building or firefighter safety, will negatively affect the economy, jobs, and established code development processes, and have long standing impacts on the built and rural environments. Quite simply, the three alarm arson fire at the partially-constructed sixty-unit senior citizens housing and community center project at Gay and Federal Streets in Baltimore was an anomaly. The building code is explicit in its language to address the spread of fire that originates from a single, defined source. Fires deliberately set are specifically intended to defeat the very building safeguards that slow the spread of fire.
“AWC supports the long established, multi-stakeholder involved, code development process provided by the International Code Council. Code development, research, rigorous third-party testing, public hearings, and input from code officials, fire officials, design professionals, and industry should dictate the direction of the codes. AWC stands ready to assist with the technical and engineering expertise to safely construct wood buildings in compliance with today’s life safety codes.”