UK Timber Frame Association and HSE have joined forces to promote more fire resistant time frame systems

The timber frame industry has made a bid to rehabilitate its reputation through a new collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive.

The UK Timber Frame Association and the HSE have joined forces to produce a tool promoting more fire resistant timber frame systems for multi-storey developments in densely populated areas and providing safe distances between timber frame and existing homes.

Timber frame’s reputation has suffered after a spate of devastating fires in half built, multi-storey timber framed developments.

Many of these fires, including two in London in late 2009 and early 2010, occurred in developments with unprotected, open panel timber frames and caused widespread damage to surrounding buildings and the evacuation of hundreds of people.

This prompted the HSE to issue guidance making it difficult to use multi-storey timber frame in urban areas.

Paul Newman, technical director of the UK Timber Frame Association, told Building he recognised there had been an issue with fire in timber frame and hoped the new tool would address that.

He said: “This gives us the HSE’s blessing to build using timber frame on any site from a small infill to a large development regardless of where it is.”

He added it would “undoubtedly” change the types of timber frame systems produced by manufacturers.

The tool provides guidance on safe site practices to minimise the risk of site fires and stipulates minimum distances for three different categories of timber frame construction ranging from open panel to fire protected closed panel systems. A large open panel six storey building would need to be built at least 36m from neighbouring properties ruling it out for most tight sites but only 9m for the most fire resistant form of timber framed construction. Category A is the least fire resistant type and includes plain open panel systems. Category B includes some fire mitigation measures such as fire proofed open panel systems and category C is the most fire resistant type and would typically feature fire resistant sheathing boards.


 Small developmentLarge development
Category A16m36m
Category B12.75m18.5m
Category C6m8.75m

NB: Figures are for a six-storey timber frame development