The Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) is asking for a group effort to promote structural timber in the light of the Government’s proposal to ban the use of safe structural timber in the external wall of buildings with a floor above 11m.
The UK Government is currently seeking views on the ban of the use of combustible materials in and on external walls of buildings, with any changes affecting every new residential building in the country with a floor above 11m (approx. 4 storeys). Comments are being received until 23:45 on Monday 25th May.
Whilst ACAN unreservedly support stronger measures regarding the safety of buildings, the current proposals unnecessarily impact the ability to build with timber as the primary structural material. This proposal comes despite a significant amount of UK innovation in the use of engineered timber systems such as glulam and cross laminated timber (CLT).
ACAN is concerned by the implications of this proposed ban on the UK’s ability to mitigate the climate emergency, as timber has a much lower embodied carbon than other commonly used structural materials or systems, including concrete, steel and masonry. Timber can sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, storing it within the building for as long as it stands.
ACAN is calling for responses to the consultation from individuals and practices across the architectural profession and further afield. It is supporting the UK Timber Trade Federation on the following key responses:
- Focus the ban on combustible cladding, as distinct from external walls. This will help provide the clarity needed for designers and specifiers to build better and safer.
- Take a science-based approach.Use BS8414 as the base for fire safety compliance, which was found to still be fit for purpose in the Hackitt Review.
- Align legislation with the Scottish approach.This will encourage a common regulatory approach throughout the UK improving clarity and safety.
In addition, ACAN’s other key concerns are are that designers should not be unnecessarily impeded in meeting the targets set out by the Committee on Climate Change aimed at decarbonising the construction industry. Also, the government should recognise the significant contribution made by UK designers in fire-safe timber architecture, and these efforts should be supported through new regulations regarding safety.