Performing under fire timber construction
Performing under fire – WPA chief executive Gordon Ewbank explains what’s involved in ensuring that wood performs effectively to enhance safety and meet Building Regulations
Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy tackles head-on the significant shortcomings in the control of building standards, compliance and competence in the supply chain.
From our own direct experience and from members’ reports, the Wood Protection Association (WPA) would completely agree with the review conclusions. Effective fire retardance is safety critical and it is crucial that specifiers and users of flame-retardant enhanced wood products insist on the right product for the job and that there is traceability through the supply chain to ensure that the right product is delivered to site and installed correctly. Lives are at stake.
In the critical early stages of a fire, it is the ‘reaction to fire’ properties of the various materials exposed that are vital – ie ignitability, heat, smoke, burning particle release and subsequent spread of flame across the surface.
Once a fire is more developed, then containment becomes the top priority in design with the use of compartmentalisation a common strategy. At this stage of a fire, it is the ‘fire resistance’ ratings of building elements such as walls, floors and fire doors that then becomes critical (for example, 30, 60 or 90 minutes fire resistance).
There are two tried and tested ways that flame-retardant properties can be effectively conferred on wood and wood-based materials:
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