Leading engineers and government representatives from around the Pacific have concluded a meeting in New Zealand aimed at developing common fire safety standards that are compatible with the latest timber science.
Chief Executive of the New Zealand Forest Industries Council, Mr. Stephen Jacobi, said billions of dollars in trade and thousands of forestry and construction jobs were being lost due to out of date fire safety codes in the Asia-Pacific.
"New technologies and fire management techniques have expanded the areas in which timber can be safely used in construction, however fire regulations and building codes have not always kept pace with the changes," Mr. Jacobi said.
"This means that wood products that can be used safely in construction are being locked out of potential export markets.
"An APEC Business Advisory Council study in 2002 estimated that the opportunity costs from excessively prescriptive provisions on fire safety in building codes to suppliers and consumers of wood products in APEC Economies was about US$10.8 billion a year.
"Certainly raw timber is a combustible material and safety is essential, however the out of date codes a regulations are needlessly causing considerable harm to the region.
"Ultimately the out dated codes have become unreasonable technical barriers to trade.
"In Wellington this week we have sought to take the first steps to identify new standards for the safe use of timber in construction that could be adopted by economies around the region.
"We can break down technical barriers when industry experts and regulators work together to develop a common understanding of problems and then identify ways to implement potential solutions.
"The use of timber in construction offers the region substantial rewards in enhancing economic growth and generating employment from a renewable resource."
The Fire Safe Use of Timber in Construction Seminar was held at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington from May 24-26. Guest speakers at the seminar included:
Katrina Bach, Chief Executive, New Zealand Department of Building and Housing
Miss Qiu Peifang, Tianjin Fire Research Institute, China.
Professor Sang-Sik Jang, Dept. of Forest Products, Chungnam University, Korea
Professor Andy Buchanan, Dept of Civil Engineering, Canterbury University, New Zealand
Dr Mohamed Sultan, Institute of Research in Construction Canada
Mr Paul England, Warrington Fire Research, Australia Pty Ltd
Dr Marc Janssens, Dept. of Fire Technology, Southwest Research Institute, Texas.
Mr Brian Meacham, Principal of Arup
Mr Mamoru Kohno, Fire Standards Division, Japanese National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management
The Fire Safe Use of Timber in Construction Seminar was held with the support of the APEC Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC). The role of the SCSC includes initiatives to reduce the negative effects on trade and investment flows caused by differing standards and conformance arrangements in the region.