What has been shown time and time again with fire in timber-framed buildings is that if the fire can get inside the wall and ceiling cavities, then the building suffers.

However, in the many tests in which I have been involved, if the fire is kept out of the cavities by fire resisting membranes such as plasterboard then it often outperforms masonry.

So, in many cases the most destructive fires are to buildings under construction, which do not have all of the fire resisting materials in place, or to completed buildings that have penetrations in the fire resisting membranes, such as for lights or ventilation.

What we should not do is throw the baby out with the bathwater. Timber-framed buildings can perform well in fire and have many great benefits in terms of energy usage and sustainability. The solutions are already out for all of the penetrations mentioned and they are not expensive, so why not use them? I am really not sure if sprinklers will help unless they are fitted into the cavities. But why use them when we can stop the fire from entering the cavities in the first place?

Rupert Coggon