Sales unaffected by July's Colindale fire, say manufacturers - and safer systems are on the way

The timber-frame industry has hit back at critics after coming under attack for the fire in Colindale, north-west London, in July.

Manufacturers claimed this week that the blaze, which destroyed a development in nine minutes, would not spell the end for the method and noted that sales of timber-frame systems had not fallen. They also said they were moving towards safer systems.

Gerry McCaughey, chief executive of manufacturer Kingspan Century, said: “I don’t think the fire will have a negative effect on open-panel systems [the system used at Colindale]. It may cause a builder to stop using them for up to a year, but once this has been put behind us they will come back to it.”

McCaughey added that Kingspan Century, which makes a range of systems, had enjoyed increased sales of open-panel timber-frame since the fire. Bryan Woodley, chief executive of the UK Timber Frame Association, added that the government’s target, announced in last week’s pre-Budget report, of making all new homes zero carbon in the next 10 years, would boost the method. He said: “The timber-frame industry is developing the technology and building practices that will allow housebuilders to meet this target.”

McCaughey said a shift towards less vulnerable methods was under way, but could take years. These include “closed-panel systems”, which are thought to be safer because protective plasterboard is in place when the panels arrive on site.

McCaughey did concede, however, that speculative housebuilders might be particularly slow to change to closed-panel systems as it involved a complete change in working practice.

  • Clarification: In last week’s Building (page 14) we stated the London Fire Brigade had published initial findings into the fire in Colindale, north-west London. We wish to make it clear that, although the fire brigade did talk to Building for the article, it has yet to publish any findings.