CLT pioneer says UK government “overreaches” brief on fire safety

3 December 2018

One of the UK’s leading pioneers of cross-laminated timber construction (CLT) – Waugh Thistleton Architects –has expressed “disappointment” the government is proposing a ban on CLT in new residential buildings above 18m.

The practice, which designed the landmark 30m-high CLT Stadthaus building in Murray Grove, said the government’s latest statement on amending the Building Regulations has “overreached its stated aim” of fire safety improvements following Grenfell.

As well as cladding materials – the original scope of post-Grenfell fire safety scrutiny – the document targets structural timber and other combustible external wall systems.

In a government policy document timber building over 18m is specifically flagged up as being within the scope of prohibition under the proposals. The effect of this, the document says, would be to slow down the use of engineered timber in developments in the medium to long term.

“We are clear that mass timber construction is not a valid target for this change and will continue to advocate for its exemption,” said Waugh Thistleton.

As well as expressing disappointment, Waugh Thistleton said the government statement demonstrated a “misunderstanding” of the fire performance of engineered timber.

“The UK is a world leader in the development of engineered timber construction with over 500 buildings completed,” it added.

“As the government acknowledges this change in regulations will have an impact on the continued innovation and development of low carbon construction, and hence on the rate at which the construction industry can tackle climate change.”

Waugh Thistleton made clear that the government is not proposing a ban on using CLT, but a different approach to building tall residential structures.