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Waugh Thistleton vows to fight for cross-laminated timber following combustibles ban

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Cross-laminated timber (CLT) specialist Waugh Thistleton Architects has vowed to fight the government’s new combustibles ban after it emerged that engineered timber would not be exempt from the policy

The government confirmed last Thursday (29 November) it was prohibiting combustible materials in the external walls of new buildings over 18m tall and containing housing.

The government’s impact assessment of the policy, which will come into effect on 21 December, stated it ‘prohibits the use of timber materials in the external wall of buildings within the scope’.

Reacting to the ban, Waugh Thistleton Architects, which has pioneered the use of the CLT construction method in the UK, said the decision was ‘disappointing’.

The Stirling Prize-shortlisted practice accused the government of ‘overreaching its aims’ and vowed to fight for an exemption from the ban.

In a statement, Waugh Thistleton said: ‘In the wake of the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, changes were needed to the construction industry and particularly in the way that external façades are designed, engineered and delivered.

‘On the whole, the new legislation should be welcomed from that perspective. However, we are clear that mass timber construction is not a valid target for this change and will continue to advocate for its exemption.’

Ministers first announced in June that they intended to stop combustibles being used following pressure from campaigners including Grenfell United, a group representing survivors and bereaved families of those who died in the fire last year.

The new policy - which also applies to new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation – limits the use of materials to those with a European fire rating of Class A1 or A2.

Waugh Thistleton, which designed Dalston Works in Hackney, the largest CLT ‘plyscraper’ in Europe, said while the measure would not mean an outright ban on the use of timber in high rises, it would change the way they were designed.

‘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,’ it added.

Announcing the ban last week, housing secretary James Brokenshire said it would allow all tall buildings to be made permanently safe ‘without delay’.

The move has been welcomed by the RIBA which said it was ‘vital’ in ensuring that buildings were safe across the UK.

Former RIBA president Jane Duncan, chair of the institution’s fire safety group, said: ‘The legislation laid out today is a welcome outcome from a lengthy consultation. It is of the utmost importance that we get this right – for the victims of such a devastating tragedy and for the future safety of our homes.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The Grenfell House fire was so horrific that - given that previous fires (particularly the Lakanal House tragedy) are widely seen as having demonstrated official under-reaction to serious fire safety failings in high-rise apartment buildings - a knee-jerk over-reaction now by politicians is almost guaranteed.

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