As a direct result of a number of high profile timber-framed construction site fires and the increasing alarm at the rate and severity of their fire spread, the Fire Protection Association and insurers' technical research group RISCAuthority has announced their intention to publish comprehensive guidance aimed at tradesmen installing services into this type of construction.
Having previously raised the issue of timber frame construction site fires with Ministers in the last administration, the FPA applauded the joint Chief Fire Officers' and UK Timber Frame Association's (UKTFA) initiative aimed at reducing the likelihood and consequence of timber frame construction fires. However, whilst recognising the need within the UK for improved housing provided on an environmentally-sustainable and cost-effective basis, FPA has closely followed the emerging issues relating to structural timber and other modern methods of construction and have identified and investigated shortcomings of some of the completed structures in their fire performance.
Commenting on a number of recent timber frame construction site fires, Dr Jim Glockling FPA Technical Director and RISCAuthority passive group chair said: "Our principal concerns are their susceptibility to arson and accidental fire setting during the construction phase and the impact of these, often large, fires on local communities. We're also concerned with build quality issues, meaning some buildings may fail to ever meet the fire protection requirements of the Building Regulations, as well as the scope for occupier adjustment of the building to defeat the fire safety principles of the design."
He went on to question the suitability of Approved Document 'B' and the accompanying inspection processes to ensure the safety of buildings constructed of flammable structural elements, having historically been developed around buildings constructed of nominally non-flammable materials.
RISCAuthority's technical groups are now working closely with UKTFA to provide a series of guides that complement the existing UKTFA scheme to reduce construction fires. Dr Glockling added: "We have released a new, freely-available, guide on arson and over the next few months aim to produce a comprehensive series of guides specifically targeted at groups whose trades require them to breach the fire compartment. From electricians and plumbers to cable TV installers and DIY enthusiasts, we intend to highlight the issues of breaching fire compartments and the importance of selecting the correct devices for 'making good' the breach to ensure the fire design ambition is maintained".
Technical support for the project is being provided by the Association for Specialist Fire Protection and these guides will be applicable to all construction methods employing potentially flammable structural materials including timber frame and structural insulated panels.
Welcoming the initiative, Jonathan O'Neill, Managing Director of the FPA said: "Whilst it is reassuring to see the sector coming together to resolve these issues, it is disappointing that the government continues to be reluctant to review the appropriateness of current building regulation for this type of construction."
For more information, contact: Dr Jim Glockling on 07900 692 911; Dominic Louks at firstname.lastname@example.org