It’s time for timber!

Despite being commonly used within a wide range of building projects, timber still fights against the misconception that it’s too flammable for use as a construction material. Whilst timber does burn, the material is able to provide the highest levels of fire resistance in the event of a blaze. Here, Andy Lake, UK Projects Director at Pyroguard, explains exactly what gives the material such strong fire safety properties and why it should be considered on construction projects.

Intuition is a great thing, it helps us to sense when things are off and conversely when everything seems right. However, intuition is not a flawless tool, in fact, there are countless concepts throughout life that compound expectations, particularly in construction. For example, just because timber is a flammable material doesn’t mean that it is not suitable for use in construction. Timber provides excellent performance in a fire and can achieve the highest levels of fire protection. What’s more, with the right testing and assessments, those using the material are able to accurately predict how it will perform in a blaze, allowing them to put together more robust fire escape plans.

All types of timber have their own specific charring rate, which can be used to indicate fire resistance in the event of an incident. As such, architects and specifiers are able to work with fire safety glass experts to design glazing frames to the right thickness, to ensure that they offer the level of protection required for the build. Hardwoods offer lower charring rates than others, but most types of timber are suitable for use in frames, as long as they have been correctly designed with the required density. In fact, timber is able to achieve an EI60 fire rating, which guarantees a minimum of 60 minutes Insulation and integrity against an ongoing blaze. However, this robust fire performance is not the only benefit of choosing timber.

As well as offering great fire protection, timber frames tend to retain their shape and structure more effectively than other materials, when exposed to high levels of heat from a fire. Results from fire tests show how stable timber can be when subjected to fire situations, it does not warp and twist as much as metallic materials, which helps to ensure that the fire safety glass solution remains secure within its frame. What’s more, thanks to its adaptable nature, timber frames are far more ‘forgiving’ when dealing with structural opening variations on site.

Additionally, timber is a building material with exceptional aesthetic value and its use within glazing frames can help to create designs unimaginable with other materials. Not only does timber exude a natural beauty, but the material can be stained and designed more ornately than alternatives. Similarly, it represents a truly sustainable building material choice. Increasingly, architects and specifiers are required to meet certain environmental targets when designing buildings, which many find tricky to meet. However, by adopting a material like timber it can make such targets far more attainable.

This sustainability argument extends across most timber materials, which is why it is good news that industry leaders are continuing to conduct fire testing on different types, such as glue laminated timber. Much like virgin timber, alternative timber types enable us to accurately predict how a building frame will respond in a fire. This predictability can make a huge difference in the event of a fire and afford those inside the building enough time to evacuate to safety.

Thankfully, more of us are now concerned about the fire safety performance of the buildings we live and work in. This added emphasis is necessitating new analysis of different materials and their associated fire safety performance. In this rush, those in the trade must make sure not to overlook the strong fire performance properties of materials like timber. However, to get the most from the material it must be properly specified, which will require the assistance of a fire safety glass expert. By following specification guides and ensuring that the correct thickness of timber is used, you can create beautiful buildings, which provide exceptional fire safety performance.

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