'New house-building methods are unsafe,' MPs told

Pioneering new house-building methods and materials, such as timber frames, are causing concern among fire safety experts, a recent seminar held at the Houses of Parliament was told.

MPs were warned that many modern methods of construction, new forms of material and new engineered structures were not evaluated for how they can withstand fire in built properties.

Mike Wood, the vice-chairman of the Passive Fire Protection Federation, said: "Fire safety is too often seen as a constraint in design, limiting flexibility, adding cost and preventing the full expression of other cherished design niceties. One of the most dominant trends is to take short cuts in fire safety – to minimise, downgrade, perhaps eliminate – in the expectation that bad practice will not be detected and exposed."

Wilf Butcher, the chief executive officer of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection, explained that new building methods need close attention due to the potential inherent dangers: "[The construction industry is] moving into wood frame construction, we are looking at modular off-site kitchens and bathrooms being effectively 'podded' into a building. We are looking at more fuel-efficient systems which can, in some quarters, be more flammable and toxic."

Mr Butcher believes that the Government should also take a role over the issue: "The interaction of these new construction materials and systems, and how they relate to fire-safety measures, is an issue the industry and Government have to address over the next few years."

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