In response to the government´s proposal to ban the use of combustible materials in and on external walls of buildings, the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) is asking for a group effort in promoting structural timber.

The government is currently considering views on the proposed ban, with any changes to come into effect on every new residential building in the country with floors above 11 metres (around 4 floors).   Comments were being received up until Monday 25th May.

Whilst ACAN are fully supportive of implementing stronger safety measures in new builds, they are concerned at that the current proposals are to ban the use of timber as the main material for supporting structures.  Much headway has been made into innovating new engineered timber systems such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam and by eliminating these materials in place of other structural materials such as concrete, steel and stonework, we may be negatively impacting on our ability to mitigate the climate emergency.

Timber has a much lower imbedded carbon than other structural materials and can absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, storing it for the duration of the building´s life.

ACAN is calling for individuals and practices across the Architectural sector and all associated industries to respond and support the UK Timber Trade Federation on these 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.

ACAN is also keen to see that UK designers of fire-safe timber be recognised by the government for their contribution to fire-safe timber architecture, and that these efforts are supported through new regulations being implemented for fire safety.  They are also concerned that these designers are not impeded in meeting the targets set out for them by the Committee on Climate Change which is aimed at decarbonising the construction industry.