Projects built out of timber frame are set to face a regime of third-party inspections to check they are not vulnerable to fire.
The system, piloted by the UK Timber Frame Association, a trade body, is a response to blazes that have hit projects in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and Colindale, north London, in the past 18 months.
The checks would mean that inspectors looked at sites every two weeks to assess fire risk procedures, drills, where workers are smoking and the treatment and use of flammable materials.
The association is working with the Health and Safety Executive, the fire service, campaigning body Wood for Good and the Fire Protection Association on the scheme. It has carried out trials in two places: on a Linden Homes site in Slough, Berkshire, and another on a Berkeley Homes project. International Fire Consultants manages the project.
Stewart Dalgarno, the chairman of the association, said the key to fire prevention was management controls on site. He said: “We are absolutely confident that timber does not pose a greater risk than any other material, as long as the management on site is there.”
He said the scheme would not be too costly, noting: “We’re talking thousands of pounds for a very large building. It’s not a show-stopper.”
Timber does not pose a greater risk of fire than any other material
Dalgarno added that the association was working closely with key housebuilders.
The safety checks are part of a programme of work being carried out by the trade association. This includes training, research, guidelines and seminars on fire safety and protection.
Dalgarno said it was also looking at specific products and treatments to timber to reduce the risk of fires starting or spreading. “This is particularly key for ground floors, where arson is most common,” he said. Dalgarno added that a key part of the programme was to make sure firms complied with CDM regulations.
Dalgarno said the level of investment in the programme – “hundreds of thousands of pounds” – showed the association had “faith in the product”.
For more on timber frame, search www.building.co.uk/archive