October 22, 2020

Grenfell fears prevent timber building boom

Fears of another Grenfell-type fire are stunting the spread of wood-based buildings in the UK.

The government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

The move’s been recommended by the emergency services in order to reduce fire risk.

But it contradicts other advice to increase timber construction because trees lock up climate-heating carbon emissions.

In France, President Macron has ruled all new publicly-funded buildings should be at least 50% timber or other natural materials by 2022.

And in Norway a new “ply-scraper” stretches fully 18 storeys – that’s the height recently deemed safe by standards authorities in North America.

18-storey “ply-scraper”

Members of the timber trade say the Government in England has misunderstood the science behind timber construction.

They say timber walls can be made safe by methods including flame-retardant treatments and fire-resistant claddings.

They point out that it is futile planting millions of trees if they are left to rot and release the CO2 they previously captured.

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