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Fire Safety of Wooden Structures


Pirita Top Spa Hotel, Tallinn, Estonia

13th September 2005

An audience of 80 fire safety officers, business representative and specialists from throughout Europe, attended a very successful seminar in Tallinn recently.

To see the programme, click here. The morning session focussed on explaining the European fire safety system for buildings. This is based on the requirements for structures to demonstrate:
• load-bearing (no collapsing)
• integrity (no flames getting through gaps)
• insulation (not so hot on the exterior surface that things outside will ignite)


Fire safety requirements for buildings are:
• compartmentalisation (that the fire must be contained in the are where it started for a minimum time period)
• integrity of escape routes (so people can get out)
• safe access for fire-fighters to enter to tackle the fire


The afternoon session focussed on practical guidance and experience of building for fire safety with wood.

Click on the links below to view or download the presentations.

Esko Mikkoloa from VTT in Finland gave an overview of the relevant EU regulations and requirements for fire safety evaluation (Construction Products Directive & Eurocodes).
Construction Products Directive, CPD Overview. Esko Mikkola - VTT Building and Transport

Julie Bregulla from BRE in the UK explained the purpose of fire testing - to ensure compartmentalisation so fires are contained where they start for a specified period.
Regulatory guidance for timber buildings in the UK and results from full-scale tests. Julie Bregulla - BRE

Birgit Östman of SP Trätk, Sweden, talked about the test standards for reaction to fire and explained the requirements for load-bearing capacity, insulation and integrity in fire safety design.
Test standards for Reaction to fire. Birgit Östman - SP Trätek / Wood Technology Stockholm

Alar Just from Estonia gave a presentation on the technical calculations and details for fire-testing calculations for Eurocodes.

Esko Mikkola spoke again on fire safety engineering - new possibilities for wood products, and how to apply the regulations. He included 3 case studies - Use of wood in facades; the basis for risk-based fire resistance requirements; & performance of load-bearing glulam beams in a natural fire.
Fire Safety Engineering New possibilities for wood products. Esko Mikkola - VTT Building and Transport

Hans Hartl of Universität Innsbruck in Austria spoke on fire risk and statistical approaches, using examples from Austria and Switzerland (see also the FiRE-TECH project http://www.firetech.be/). He used the fire in 1992 at the Imperial Castle in Vienna as a case study.
Risk assessment for the estimation of the disaster "fire" for (historical) timber constructions. Hon.-Prof. Dr.techn. Hans Hartl

Birgit Östman spoke again on the European classification for fire safety for wood products and explained the system for classifying without further testing. This is important for the timber sector as with testing each manufacturer has to test their own products independently - this is clearly impractical for the timber sector which tends to have very many small manufacturers of similar products.
European reaction to fire classification of wood products. Birgit Östman - SP Trätek / Wood Technology Stockholm

In the afternoon attention shifted to practical experience in different European countries.

Patrick Racher of Blaise Pascal University in France described French experiences of fire safety and timber constructions, and emphasised the importance of human behaviour in fire safety.
Timber in Construction. Fire Safety developments in France. Patrick Racher - Dhionis Dhima

Julie Bregulla spoke again, this time explaining how BRE had worked in partnership with the timber industry to help the UK regulators harmonise regulations across different parts of the UK. They had jointly run a test called TF2000, which involved extensive fire safety tests to generate technical data on a 6 storey timber frame construction.
Fire Safety in buildings: Fire resistance testing. Test standards and route to compliance. Julie Bregulla - BRE

Reinhard Wiederkehr of Makiol & Wiederkehr in Switzerland talked about the Swiss regulations and gave an overview of the different types of regulations for different types of building heights, illustrating his talk with photos of a wider variety of building types. A study of timber facades concluded that well-constructed timber facades can achieve full protection.
Swiss fire regulations according to VKF. Possibilities of timber constructions. Reinhard Wiederkehr

Birgit Östman gave her final presentation of the day on the changes which have occurred in regulations in Nordic countries over the past few years. As a result of relaxation in height restrictions in 1994 there are now many multi-storey timber buildings all over Sweden.
Fire safe timber buildings - Nordic design guidelines. Birgit Östman - SP Trätek / Wood Technology Stockholm

Hans Hartl spoke again on the Austrian experience of building fire safety in wood. He emphasized the importance of cooperation and collaboration between research establishments and industry. The overall aim of recent Austrian research in this field is to influence European standardisation for the benefit of better calculation of the fire resistance of timber elements.
Guidance and experience on building fire safety with wood - Austrian contribution. Hon.-Prof. Dr.techn. Hans Hartl

Finally, Kaur Kajak of the Estonian Rescue Board spoke about the practical experience of dealing with fire safety issues in Estonia.