Green Fire Retardants for Structural Timber

Project Background

The project is aimed at investigating a poorly understood area of fire safety, that is the perceived weakness of timber framed structures due to fire. The use of the word perceived is well used as there is a general perception in the media, government and also to a lesser extent society, that timber framed buildings are more fragile in a fire than other, more traditional forms of construction like masonry (1). 

This is factually wide of the mark as although timber is a combustible material, it has several mechanisms that allow it to cope with fires. If it is of a light-framed  construction the structural members are protected by fireproof cladding materials, e.g. gypsum plasterboard. However a heavy frame timber building has inherent fire resistance due to the large size of the members and the protective process of charring.

There is also a need to 'bridge the gap' of knowledge between the fire retardant manufacturers and the timber construction industry concerning the optimum effective use and application of retardants.

The other area of research required is the growing need for 'green' alternatives both in terms of carbon sustainability (i.e. manufacturing carbon footprint) and health. Current retardants (2)(18) especially brominated compounds have been linked to various health concerns throughout Europe and North America, thus a cleaner, more natural fire retardant is required to renew both public and regulatory confidence.

There is a vast array of information surrounding timber fires, the following sections will shed light on the details and explain exactly what we are investigating as well as answering some questions you might have such as the ones below.

                                                                  A spark neglected makes a mighty fire ~ Robert Herrick



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