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"Wake up call" over timber-framed construction sites

The London Assembly has called for a planned review of fire regulations to be brought forward from 2012 to address a “crisis of confidence” about risks on timber-framed construction sites.

In a report published today, the assembly’s planning and housing committee says the level of concern about the safety of timber-framed sites warrants a more urgent investigation.

The report was initiated as a result of recent blazes of timber-framed buildings under construction, including one in Camberwell in November 2009 and one in Peckham in January 2010.

The report’s recommendations are also set against a background of low-carbon building policies, which are increasing the use of sustainably-sourced timber in housing developments in London.

“We’re calling for the government review [on timber-framed buildings and tall buildings] to be called forward from 2012 to now,” Nicky Gavron, the chair of the London Assembly’s Planning and Housing Committee told Construction News.

“The issue is that on a timber construction site the fires are absolutely ferocious,” Ms Gavron said.

One fire on a timber-framed building being built in Colindale in July 2006 was so fierce that, although no one was injured, it collapsed within 20 minutes.

There is a greater risk of fire when a timber-framed building is under construction than when the timber has been clad, when these buildings pose no more risk than other types of building, he report states.

“We want sprinklers on site and inspectors making sure there is compliance with building regulations at critical stages, such as when fire stops and barriers are placed into cavity walls to stop the spread of fire. And we want the fire brigade to be notified immediately of timber-framed sites so they can plan ahead should there be a fire,” Ms Gavron said.

“We also don’t want any partial occupation until the building is fully developed,” she added.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I live on an 10 year old estate comprised completely of Timber-Framed homes. Earlier this year a small fire caught hold in one of the middle homes of a terrace of 6 and within 20 minutes all of the homes were razed to the ground.

    If the report thinks that fully clad timber framed buildings pose no more of a risk than other types of building, the report is wrong and I wholeheartedly agree that the investigation into the matter should be brought forward with the upmost priority.

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  • I agree that a review should take place, the Joint Code of Practice on the protection from fires of construction sites 2009 already states that the any timber frame building is notified to the local fire services with site plans and layouts before the works starts, why do we not call for all timber frame buildings have a fire protection coating applied before it is construction on site, this will help reduce the spread of fires in the first place.

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  • This sounds like the kind of hype that has been around since the Great Fire of London!
    Timber Framing is the major construction type used for housing in Australia yet fires either on site or after occupation are rare. Put this down to the following:
    1. Care and cleanliness on the building site;
    2. Separation of houses generally and where adjoining (either side by side or vertically). Fire protection by use of Fire Rated plasterboard. Separation of construction through Common/Party walls;
    3. During construction, control of onsite fire sources and heaters (if any).

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