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|TDA Newsletter 2012 No. 2|
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|TDA Newsletter 2011 No. 2|
|TDA Newsletter 2011 No. 1|
|TDA Newsletter 2010 No. 3|
|TDA Newsletter 2010 No. 2|
|TDA Newsletter 2010 No. 1|
|TDA Newsletter 2009 No. 3|
|TDA Newsletter 2009 No. 2|
|TDA Newsletter 2009 No. 1|
|TDA Newsletter 2008 No. 2|
|TDA Newsletter 2008 No. 1|
|TDA Annual Reports|
|Fire research and regulatory reform|
|Saturday, 10 May 2008 00:00|
The TDA is about to embark upon another round of Forest and Wood Products Australia funded fire research and testing. This may be expected to have a big impact, in time, on building regulations.
Much work in this area has been carried in recent years by TDA and other organisations. It is clear, nonetheless, that additional research and testing is required to fill in the gaps in the available information and to bring some of the material up to date and into a useable format.
The use of timber in bushfire prone areas and in commercial applications is greatly restricted by current regulations. Although our fire research has provided significant market openings, it is obvious that more work needs to be done to maintain the role of timber as an acceptable building material. There are at present only a limited number of timber species that can be used for building in bushfire prone areas - and their use is restricted to certain profiles and applications.
Two recently released test method standards will allow more stringent testing to be carried out on products such as decking, cladding and fencing and on external joinery such as handrails and windows. Testing of cladding of various thicknesses and research into the fire retardant properties of different profiles will certainly provide more market opportunities for timber producers.
These tests should also greatly increase the range of allowable timber species. Although high density hardwoods are expected to perform best, a number of softwoods such as non-fire retarded Cypress and Western Red Cedar along with pine plywood will also be included in the cladding tests. These tests will establish the level of radiant heat resistance to bushfire of these materials. It is anticipated that these results will significantly expand the role of timber in construction in bushfire prone areas.
In commercial buildings, minimum timber fire hazard properties are mandated for both structural applications and coverings i.e. wall, floor and ceiling coverings. These properties are neither well understood nor appreciated by the design community and the timber industry.
A number of Early Fire Hazard Properties have been in use now for some 30 years and are considerably out of date. These include species that are no longer commercially available.
TDA intends to update this material by expanding the range of structural applications and increasing the number of species for which fire hazard properties will be available. There is also a lot of research that needs to be done to clarify the position of structural and covering timber.
The current regulations are confusing at best. Plywood may be used, for instance, on a single floor of a commercial building both as a polished floor covering and as a structural floor base under carpet or tiles. It is unclear, however, how the regulations would deal with this: the applicable standards are open to a bewildering range of interpretations. This has limited the use not only of plywood, but of many other timber products.
Many variables need to be taken into consideration here. The shape of profiles and of the joints between boards will affect test results. The variety of timbers and adhesives from which plywood and engineered timbers may be manufactured complicates matters further.
Test results will be made available on an ongoing basis so that regulators, designers and industry members can capitalise on research as it progresses. TDA has been at the forefront of fire research for many years now; many companies have benefited and will continue to benefit from our research and experience.
It is vital that your company has comprehensive, up-to-date specifications for your timber or timber based products. TDA is currently updating the specifications of a number of major timber industry members. However large or small your operations, we can arrange to monitor your documentation and work with your staff to keep your material current. No other organisation has the expertise and ongoing research data which we can provide: the TDA is uniquely positioned to offer this service.
Any company interested in this service should contact the TDA.