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London Assembly calls for urgent action on tall building and timber frame fire safety

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Mandatory minimum standards for fire risk assessors, improved fire safety during the construction of timber frame buildings, and a requirement for all social housing landlords to publish a register of fire risk assessments are just three of the recommendations in a new report.

Fire Safety in London: Fire risks in London’s tall and timber framed buildings, published today by the London Assembly’s planning and housing committee, says the government must take urgent action to address a “crisis of confidence” about fire risks on timber frame construction sites, and to improve fire safety for people living in tall buildings.

The report says the government should not wait until 2012 to begin its planned review of building regulations because there is already a significant level of concern within the industry about the safety of timber frame sites, following a spate of recent fires.

The committee heard evidence, however, that once constructed,  timber frame buildings pose no greater risk of fire than conventionally constructed buildings, as long as upgrade works and DIY modifications are done properly.

The report also calls for improvements to the way fire risks are managed in tall residential buildings.

Key findings and recommendations of the report, which is the result of a London Assembly inquiry into the fire safety of London’s residential buildings especially timber frame structures and tall buildings include:

  • A variety of fire safety measures such as temporary sprinkler systems and enhanced site security should be promoted by the timber frame industry, with a mandatory requirement to inform fire and rescue services about new timber frame construction
  • Building regulations for timber frame construction techniques should be reviewed, and the industry should identify the safety critical stages of the construction phase and ensure that inspections are made at these stages
  • Partial occupation of timber frame developments should not be allowed until the whole development is complete
  • The government should draw up minimum standards of competence for training and accreditation of all fire risk assessors
  • The government should also require all social landlords to publish a full register of fire risk assessments online; provide existing and new residents with better information about what to do in the event of a fire; and ensure that inspecting for unauthorised or damaging works are part of routine inspections by housing staff.

"There is a crisis of confidence about the safety of tall and timber framed buildings and the government and construction industry must act now to tighten regulations and reduce fire risk," said Nicky Gavron AM, chair of the planning and housing committee. "As we construct at higher densities and with more environmentally friendly materials we will see more tall and timber-framed buildings. It is therefore vital to current and future residents that we get fire safety absolutely right.”

Read the full report here


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