The UK construction industry’s approach to fire testing has changed significantly in the last 2 years. Any architect or contractor working on large commercial projects will have noticed the increased scrutiny that products and build-ups have come under in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster of 2017. Several revisions of the UK Government’s centrally issued statutory guidance on Fire Safety - ‘Approved Document B’ have been made following the ‘Hackitt Report’, an independent review of our guidelines released in 2018 – which stated clearly the requirement of any composite product to be ‘full systems’ fire tested, reflecting the actual end use configuration and build-ups that are to be used on a building, not simply relying on individual component fire testing and ‘desktop studies’.
This move has meant that timber fire treatments have come under close attention and it turns out, can vary widely in performance depending on the species, profile slat size, spacing and any other additional variations to a timber wall or ceiling’s build-up. It is also true that fire retardant treatments are often tested in more ‘forgiving’ scenarios than in ‘real world’ scenarios, utilising calcium silicate boards and minimal gaps / ventilation in order to limit the combustibility profile during certification.
This all means that as a specifier and buyer you must be very aware of the degree of fire testing that is available for the product you are using. You cannot rely on individual timber certification or 3rd party testing and must ensure that you have ‘full systems’ fire tests that have tested the panel product in its entirety and furthermore, align accurately with the configurations, build-up and scenario of its actual end use.