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London fire chief criticises timber frames

The growing use of timber-frame construction in high rise buildings has been criticised by the chairman of the London Fire Authority.

Brian Coleman was speaking after an investigation into last year’s Peckham fire which destroyed two tower blocks that were close to completion as well as damaging neighbouring buildings.

That incident followed a similar blaze in Croydon in 2007, where another timber-frame tower block burned to the ground, however a BBC investigation suggests that the construction method has proliferated since a BRE test in 1999 on a six-storey timber framed building in a aircraft hangar, where a fire was effectively controlled.

The results of the BRE study were used for marketing purposes by the UK Timber Frame Association.

London Fire Authority chairman Brian Coleman said: “I have always been a stern critic of high rise timber framed buildings having seen in my own area the results of a blaze. Sadly, these days developers looking to build things quicker and cheaper have resorted to timber.

“Supporters of timber frame buildings say once they’re built they’re completely safe. But we know people drill holes in walls which damages the building fabric and allows the timber to become exposed. I personally wouldn’t allow any high rise timber buildings - there needs to be a review of regulations.”

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