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1 December, 2008
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Normal MDF creates 'flashover' in less than seven minutes

The burning question
Published:  08 August, 2008

Biljmer Arena is the first Dutch railway station to use timber in the roof

The timber industry has taken important steps to develop fire protection systems. David Pittman reports

As modern developments in-creasingly turn to timber for their build solution, so the wood-based industries have had to work to answer the questions posed to them; most notably efforts to offer pro-tection against fire.
The treatments market has been the most prolific in of-fering an answer to these con-cerns, with new ideas and solutions abundant.
Arch Timber Protection’s Vacsol FR, launched on the market last year, combines a preservative treatment with fire retardant additives, billed as particularly valuable for reducing fire risks in buildings under construction.
It is impregnated into framing timbers through a double-vacuum, low pressure indus-trial treatment process, with reduced fire growth, smoke generation and heat release allowing extra time for evacuation, said Janet Brown,
marketing manager at Arch.
“Vacsol FR fire retardant framing timber has been de-signed to fit into the fire man-agement regime of any future project, particularly high-value buildings,” she said.
Fellow treatments manufac-turer Osmose said that it is working with the timber in-dustry to develop solutions through its Protim brand.
This has seen Protim IGuard, designed to protect engineered wood products such as I-joists and I-studs, and Protim FrameGuard, engineered to give short-term spread of flame performance, come to the fore.
“We’re now working with in-dustry to address its future needs and are creating new options for timber to compete against other materials,” said Osmose European marketing director Andy Hodge.
Developments in the treatments market have also been subject to the growth of eco-products, with Fire Retardant UK developing the market for the water-based HR Prof treatment and Chris Dilks from the firm describing interest in the product as "extraordinary".
However, he offered a note of caution to areas of the timber frame industry and specifiers not giving adequate thought to fire protection. 
"The balance between the extra cost of treating and the risk of not may be something that either the industry or the in-surers of timber frame devel-opments will have to address," said Dilks.
Neil Ryan, managing director at PTG Treatments Ltd, added that the treatments market still had work to do educating specifiers on available products and ensuring the solutions put forward are fit for purpose.
"We need to be careful that we're applying the right treatments with the right properties in the right envi-ronments," he said.
"Fire retardants are different from coatings and users need to be aware that the process is right for the intended use."
To this end, he said that PTG had ceased working with
dry internal treatments and focused on humidity resistant products to make it easier for customers to make the
right choice.
Shock tactics
Developments in the panels market are also providing so-lutions to fire-safety questions.
Fire Retardant UK has carried out indicative tests on OSB treated with its HR Prof solu-tion and said that the results were "shocking". The un-treated board was quickly en-gulfed by flame while the treated material remained under control.
And Coillte Panel Products has been promoting its Medite FR flame retardant MDF through a dramatic 10-minute DVD showing its performance under fire.
Testing two identical rooms, one clad in the flame retardant treated board and one in nor-mal MDF, Coillte said that the results showed the "shockingly obvious" benefits of using treated materials.
"While the standard MDF room becomes a blazing in-ferno leading to ‘flashover’ in under seven minutes, the room clad in Medite FR MDF maintains a harmless flame with limited damage," said the panel producer.
Many of the answers to the questions posed by specifiers and developers have been demonstrated around the world.
Medite FR was a key compo-nent of the redevelopment of Dubai International Airport, with 45,000m2 of the flame retardant MDF installed in the ceilings and walls. Construc-tion of the £200m St Stephen's shopping precinct in Hull put HR Prof through its paces. And Arch's Dricon and Non-Com Exterior treatments were both used at the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney and the Culloden battlefield visitor centre in Scotland (see pp8-9).
Non-Com Exterior also fea-tured in the first Dutch railway station to feature a timber roof. Some 200m3 of Oregon pine was treated with it, offering protection to the 60,000 passengers that pass under the 18,500m2 roof a day.
"The project is another exam-ple of how timber can be used to create a truly magnificent building," said Janet Brown. "Our fire retardant treatments will help ensure the timber's safety and beauty are main-tained."

Further reading
UK Timber Frame Association
The first phase of the UKTFA fire safety project is close to completion and scheduled for publication at the end
of May.
This will produce a set of rec-ommendations on fire pre-vention measures for timber frame sites under construction, focusing mostly on the "people issues", such as how you manage and protect sites under construction, ensure people work with timber frame in the right way, and how to keep safe the people working on and around those sites. 
Future work will look in-depth at "product issues". Key topics will include how to make the frame and other material components more intrinsically fire safe during the construction period, timber frame's resistance to ignition and flame, the effectiveness of fire retardant treatments, and fire evacuation and firefighting guidelines.
UKTFA said it is likely that this aspect will need more technical product development, research and testing before there are new innovations universally acceptable to the supply chain, insurers, Na-tional House-Building Council and other building standards bodies.

TRADA's wood information sheet – Fire performance of timber frame residential dwellings – gives guidance and advice on fire protection and ensures that all parties involved understand their role in the design and construction of a compliant timber framed building.
It includes checklists for the installation of internal plaster-board linings and cavity barri-ers, information on timber's performance under fire and conclusions from fire tests that show timber frame is able to meet the requirements of UK-wide Building Regulations.
It also outlines the required is-sues that designers and archi-tects must tackle in order to meet Approved Document B of the Building Regulations, including negating fire spread, providing adequate escape routes and the correct level of fire resistance from 30-90 minutes.
The information sheet is available for TRADA members and registered users to download at www.trada.co.uk.

Medite FR was used in great volume to offer protection to Dubai International Airport

Keywords: TRADA
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Is timber well placed to benefit from the opportunities presented by the London 2012 Olympics?

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