THE INTRODUCTION of a new form of engineered timber is being delayed because there is nowhere to fire test it, a leading timber designer said this week.
Buro Happold group director Matthew Jones said the new material, known as a stress laminated timber (SLT) floor, could not be used in buildings without undergoing full scale fire tests.
Testing facilities in Britain are unable to handle the size of test needed, he said, adding that research body BRE's mothballed Cardington testing facility would be ideal if it were reopened.
'Ideally, I would want to test an 8m by 4m floor panel together with its supporting timber frame, ' said Jones.
Stress lamination uses strips of low grade, locally sourced softwood laid side by side and stressed together in approximately 1m widths by transverse threaded steel rods.
The Forestry Commission has already used the material on a number of small woodland road bridges. But transferring the technology into buildings is far from straightforward, Jones said.
'You have to maintain access to the stressing rods so they can be retightened as the timber shrinks. This is a potential weak spot in a fire, so large scale tests are needed to check the performance of SLT floors in a typical building fire.' Jones said he had already contacted Ulster and Edinburgh Universities as their facilities are among the most advanced in academia.
A Danish research institute has also been approached, but Jones said none could handle the size of test involved.