Dáil Éireann - Volume 480 - 30 September, 1997

Written Answers - Building Regulations.

360. Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the

Environment and Local Government the plans, if any, he has to amend the building regulations, 1993, to remove the restriction on the height of buildings using timber frames as their primary method of construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14893/97]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): The building regulations do not in themselves place a restriction on the height of buildings using timber frame construction. However, the use of combustible materials, including timber frame construction, is among the matters dealt with in the technical guidance documents which accompany the regulations. These documents provide guidance on how to comply with the requirements of the regulations. While designers are free to depart from the guidance, they tend in practice to follow it.

The technical guidance documents generally have been under review in my Department, in consultation with the Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB). Technical guidance document B, which deals with fire safety in buildings, provides guidance on requirements for fire resisting construction for particular situations e.g. party walls between buildings, walls and floors which divide a building into fire compartments, etc. Such requirements are principally related to the height and use of the building. The present guidance states that where 60 minutes fire resisting construction is required, the materials of construction should be wholly non-combustible. However, the guidance allows timber frame construction to be used for the party walls in the case of one and two storey houses.

It is currently proposed that the existing guidance will be modified to limit the situations where 60 minute fire resisting construction is required to be non-combustible to the following: high buildings i.e. where the top floor is ten metres or more above ground level; residential institutional buildings e.g. hospitals and nursing homes; and party walls between buildings, except in the case of dwelling houses of one or two storeys, where the wall is part of a timber frame construction system.

The proposed guidance in relation to party walls in houses of timber frame construction is still under consideration.