A serious blaze at a Hampshire construction site last weekend has thrust the safety of timber framed buildings under construction back into the spotlight.
The blaze ripped through a partially built three-storey timber-framed care home in Basingstoke on Friday evening.
More than 100 firefighters tackled the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately.
The incident comes after similar fires in Glasgow and Peckham earlier this year. The Peckham fire prompted the London Assembly to look into the safety of timber framed buildings (NCE 3 June).
The £11.2M Basingstoke development was one year into construction with all of the timber structure completed.
Social housing specialist Castle Oak is building the home for Saxon Weald housing association.
The Chief Fire Officers Association, industry structural safety body the Standing Committee of Structural Safety and reinforced concrete lobby groups have all raised concerns about timber-framed buildings under construction.
Timber “is simply not suitable”
“Timber is simply not suitable for use in these types of buildings,” said British Association of Reinforcement project director Steve Elliot.
BAR said reinforced concrete, which has a much greater inherent fire resistance, is more suitable for the construction of larger, commercial buildings.
The UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) denied there was a problem with timber-framed buildings.
“Timber is timber and it burns. All but one of the recent construction site fires have been caused by arson,” said UKTFA chairman Geoff Arnold.
“Site security is an issue and we have launched a programme to try to improve this.”
Government statistics released earlier this month show that there is a greater likelihood of fire breaking out on timber framed buildings while under construction.
The Department of Communities and Local Government Fire Statistics Monitor shows that one in eight buildings that burn down during construction are timber framed.
But just one in 59 completed buildings that burn down are made of timber.