Competency Is Crucial In Achieving Fire Safety

There is a common misunderstanding that timber construction is more susceptible to fire than other building materials. The cause of most fires is electrical faults or peoplerelated incidents — fires very rarely start in the structure. As Andrew Orriss, Director of STA Assure for the Structural Timber Association (STA) outlines, there are many ways to mitigate risk. 

Fire does not respect material form and fire spread can occur in all buildings. The fact is that all materials have some vulnerability to fire, for example, steel softens and concrete cracks. The key therefore is to protect the structure to ensure that the building retains its integrity. Engineered timber technology, such as cross laminated timber (CLT), has a unique quality in that when it burns, the char that forms protect the material beneath.

Increasingly, factory-manufactured buildings are considered as the ideal modern construction method. By taking the construction process away from sites into well-managed factory environments with stringent quality control systems in place, enhances not only the quality but also delivers predictability of fire performance. All factory operations in contemporary production environments are now controlled by quality management system such as ISO9001 or the STA's membership and quality standards scheme – STA Assure.

STA Assure was launched in 2017, implementing an independently audited scheme for all our members classified as structural timber building system suppliers. This scheme has evolved over the years to ensure our members know how to advise customers, as construction in accordance with regulations and manufacturers guidelines, achieves building safety standards. 

 Competency is crucial to achieving excellent standards across all building products. In support of our STA Assure initiative, we have been working on a number of key schemes to reinforce the importance of competent installation and the use of fire protection processes and products. We have developed a training programme in partnership with CITB and Edinburgh Napier University. In 2018 the STA implemented the Timber Frame Competency Award Scheme which was supported by a series of workshops. The scheme validates the skills and competences of experienced timber frame designers and manufacturers together with acting as a training programme for new entrants.

In conjunction, the STA also developed and implemented an Installer/Erector Competency Scheme which ensures that the STA Assure accredited quality standards for manufacturing processes, is continued throughout the onsite installation. The STA's award-winning Site Safe policy further ensures that the process complies with strict health and safety standards and fully complies with CDM regulations.

Members of the STA sit alongside representatives from Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), Building Societies Association (BSA), Association of British Insurers (ABI) on the modern methods of construction (MMC) definition framework, which has been developed as a specialist cross industry sub-group of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). We are also working with lenders and warrantee providers to ensure that the building science and facts are fully understood and appreciated by the financial services and insurance industries. This will enable the industry to make evidence-based decisions on levels of risk. We have seen lenders continue to support structural timber systems as a mainstream building method.

To meet the government's targets for housing, sustainability and carbon reduction, the construction industry needs to have access to a full portfolio of building products, materials and systems. According to the Sustainable Homes research timber frame, accounts for 70% of all housing stock in the developed world and 28.4% in the UK. At a time when sustainable development is a global priority and at the forefront of the UK construction agenda with key issues such as climates change dominating our futures thinking, timber is an outstanding renewable material that offers a range of environmental benefits. Add to this energy efficiency, speed of construction and offsite manufacturing methods, alleviating the traditional skills shortages – is it important to continue to maximise the benefits of structural timber systems.

Traditional construction methods and materials account for 14-16% of world carbon emissions and whilst we accept that site-based approaches are sometimes appropriate for certain design solutions, there has to be a fundamental change to the way buildings are constructed. Timber creates a natural carbon store through sequestration. The innovative use of sustainable materials can help to deliver high-quality, high-density housing without compromising the environment. It is important to raise awareness of how carbon sequestration and structural timber technology can contribute to reducing carbon emissions and help to tackle the current climate emergency.

It is essential that all materials cover every compliance requirement, not just for fire. The Hackitt Review recognised the need for all materials and construction methods to raise fire safety standards. It is mandatory for all STA manufacturing and installer members to take part in our end-to-end competency training schemes which cover design, manufacturing, installation and onsite safety.

Timber Talks Conference – 06 Nov  - Building Centre London

Want to hear more about how to deliver an award winning structural timber project ? 

Then why not attend Timber Talks and hear from Structural Timber Award finalists including:

•         Keynote Address Julia Barfield - Founding Director, Marks Barfield Architects A Case Study on the 2020 Structural Timber Awards 'Winner of Winners' – Cambridge Mosque

•         Frank Werling - Head of Technical Engineering and Design, Metsa Wood A Case Study on Centre Parcs Elveden Forest

•         Gareth Mason - Sales Manager Western Europe – Building Solutions, Stora Enso The Future of Mass Timber Construction – award winning case studies

•         Toby Ronalds - Director, Eckersley O' Callaghan A Case Study on the Swimming Pool and Teaching Area at Freeman's School

•         Kelly Harrison - Associate, Heyne Tillett Steel & Tom Foster - Design Director, Studio RHE A Case Study on The Import Building

•         John Spittle - UK Representative, Wiehag A Case Study on The Macallan Distillery

•         Simon Horn - Technical Manager, England & Wales, Stewart Milne Timber Systems A Case Study on Barratt's St Wilfrids Walk Development

•         Patrick Usborne - Director, Perpendicular Architecture More than just timber; Health & Wellbeing

As event media partners, we are offering our readers a 10% discount on tickets using promo code STMAG10 when you book online at

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