Burning desire

Earlier, we reported on the seismic concerns associated with allowing the construction of five and six storey wood-frame buildings. But that's not the only controversy surrounding such buildings. Last month, the United Kingdom's Building magazine noted on May 17, "a six-storey building in Edinburgh became the seventh large multistorey timber-frame structure in two years to be destroyed by fire." One such fire in Colindale prompted the country's Fire Protection Association to question whether "timber construction should be used for high-rise buildings."

And some have gone even further:for example, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority vice-chair Brian Coleman has called for an end to the construction of such buildings because of the risks to construction workers and occupiers; and, in Building Design magazine, British Precast chief executive Martin Clarke - who represents concrete manufacturers - called for "a halt to multi-storey buildings in timber frame."

So what does the Campbell administration - which has promised to allow the construction of five and six storey wood-frame buildings - think of those concerns? in an email sent to Public Eye yesterday, the housing and social development ministry stated, "In the United Kingdom, there are some concerns about the fire risk of multi-storey wood-frame construction. Ultimately the aim of the British Columbia Building Code is well-built buildings that are safe for their occupants. The province will move forward in a way that balances the economic and environmental benefits of wood construction with any safety concerns."

This week, the government also announced it would be hiring a consultant to identify the risks associated with such buildings, including fire.

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