Wood-frame apartments cheaper, but fire risks increase

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Wood-framed apartment construction is booming in the Triangle.

The impact from Thursday's fire in downtown Raleigh is spreading far beyond the City of Oaks.

According to market research from Real Data, there are more than 10,000 apartments under construction or proposed throughout the Triangle.

Most, if not all of those units, are built with wood frames.

"The wood is available and very affordable," David Pard, Vice President of Sales at Talbert Building Supply, told ABC11. "There is a smaller supply of concrete and steel, which would delay construction just waiting for the materials."

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In Durham alone, city officials report 1,600 apartments have gone up since 2010, with at least 400 more on the way. Pard says building with concrete or steel would require a more expensive workforce, too.

"The construction and using of metal framing is not the same carpenter as the person who's building with wood," Pard said.

Indeed, wood does carry risks because of its flammable contents. Pard says some wood products also have chemicals in them to resist insects, decay and moisture. Still, Pard insists that wood is safe when fire protections are put in place - which are required by law.

ORIGINAL STORY ON THE DOWNTOWN RALEIGH FIRE

"The fire-safety industry works very closely with the building industry and our codes align themselves so a lot of protective measures are put in place."

North Carolina's building codes are governed by international standards, mandating that all wood-framed apartment complexes have tested and approved sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers at specified locations, access to exits, and-repellent doors that resists flames for at least two hours.

The doors, however, cannot be installed until the walls are finished - which is why Metropolitan did not have those protections in place.

For more information on building and fire codes, visit:

http://codes.iccsafe.org/

State building codes

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