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Materials are not the fire-safe issue


Sir, I take issue with Martin Clarke, chairman of the Modern Masonry Alliance, who called for timber-framed housing to be banned after a fire at an unfinished building in north London (Materials, August 3).

No building is fire-safe while under construction. But, once built, any property should be fire-safe regardless of the construction materials used, if it is built to Building Regulations and incorporates Passive Fire Protection measures.

Most people think of fire protection as sprinklers or alarms.

While these active measures are important, they are part of a much larger picture. A fire strategy can only work effectively if Passive Fire Protection measures (structural steelwork protection; fire-resistant paints, glazing, dampers, etc) are built into a building's structure.

Passive Fire Protection maintains the stability of a building's structure during fire and keeps escape routes safe. It also limits fire, heat and smoke so people have t ime to get out.

Claims like Mr Clarke's focus attention on the wrong areas.

Fire-safe building design must be followed without compromise throughout the construction chain - but the choice of build materials is not the issue.

David Sugden Chairman, Passive Fire Protection Federation Fa rnham , Su r rey www. cnplus. co. uk