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Mon October 26 2020

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Timber-frame most popular social housing building method, despite fire risks

24 Aug 10 Timber-frame is the most popular construction method for new-build social housing, according to new government statistics, despite the potential fire risks.

Timber-frame is the most popular construction method for new-build social housing, according to new government statistics, despite the potential fire risks.

The system now accounts for 60% of all newly constructed social housing. It it generally cheaper, faster to build, and more environmentally-friendly than traditional masonry housing, and can now be used for blocks up to six or seven storeys high.

However, there are growing concerns about fire risks in timber-frame housing.

Statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) show that fires in timber-frame dwellings have a greater 'average spread' than those in traditionally-built homes.

A number of recent incidents have drawn attention to the issue.

Last November, a fire destroyed a partially-built timber-frame housing development in Peckham, south London. Another fire at a timber-frame block of flats in Salford a month later occurred when a workman was soldering an exterior overflow pipe which had not been properly fire-proofed.

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The Peckham fire resulted in sharp criticism from the chairman of the London Fire Authority about the growing use of high-rise timber-frame buildings.

The UK Timber Frame Association said it would discuss the new statistics the CLG.

Managing director Joe Martoccia said: "It's the first time we've been shown evidence like this and we will engage with the CLG over it. But it does involve a small number of fires, so we should be cautious not to read too much into it immediately."

The fire minister, Bob Neill, said: "We take fire safety very seriously and are aware of the questions raised about timber-framed buildings. The new government is listening to the public's concerns carefully and will tackle them head-on.

"However, I also want to reassure people that on the whole we have a very good record in this country of making our buildings safe and reducing fire deaths."

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