isurv

Fire safety: timber-framed construction

Damping down the flames

11 February 2011

FPA and RISCAuthority to publish inaugural guidance on timber-framed construction

As a direct result of high-profile timber-framed construction site fires and increasing alarm at the rate and severity of their fire spread, the Fire Protection Association (FPA) and insurers’ technical research group RISCAuthority are to publish comprehensive guidance aimed at tradesmen installing services into this type of construction.

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. While it recognised 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.

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; the impact of these often large fires on local communities; build quality issues meaning some buildings may fail to ever meet the fire protection requirements of the Building Regulations and 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 said:

“We have released a freely available guide on arson and 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 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.

Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of FPA said:

“Although it is reassuring to see the sector coming together to resolve these issues, it is disappointing that government continues to be reluctant to review the appropriateness of current Building Regulations for this type of construction.”

Further information

  • FPA is the UK’s national fire safety organisation whose mandate is to protect people, property and the environment by advancing fire prevention and protection techniques and to collaborate with its members, insurers, central and local government, the fire service and others in this work. More information can be found at www.thefpa.co.uk
  • RISCAuthority membership comprises a group of UK insurers that actively support a number of expert working bodies developing and promulgating best practice for the protection of property and business from loss due to fire and other risks. More information can be found at www.riscauthority.co.uk