Fire Safety in Timber Construction
Timber frame construction, and other similar forms of structure such as cross laminated timber construction, present specific concerns related to fire safety.
Once the building is complete, the fire performance of the timber is often achieved by cladding, for example, with plasterboard which should give a very good fire performance. However, during construction, before the cladding is in place, there can be a risk of large fires occurring.
This can present a risk not only to anyone within the construction site, but also to occupants of neighbouring buildings, due to the high levels of thermal radiation.
The Health and Safety Executive have recently increased their focus on fire safety in construction sites where timber construction is being used. They are concerned not only about the safety of anyone within the construction site, but also about external fire spread to neighbouring buildings due to radiation.
The HSE has recently supported the UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) in publishing a guide on how to deal with these issues (‘Design guide to separating distances for buildings during construction’).
That guide would include the need to carry out calculations of the levels of radiation on adjacent buildings in the event of a fire. If the radiation is too high to be tolerated, the contractors may need to find some way to reduce it. If the problem is only identified at a late stage, the mitigation measures can be complex, expensive and cause delays to the construction programme.
FCS can assist in identifying the actual level of risk and in recommending the most cost-effective ways of reducing the risk to a tolerable level.