Scrutiny of cladding has become a highly significant issue since the Grenfell Tower tragedy with more than 259 high-rise buildings now having failed fire safety tests according to TowerEight.
Plans for tests on another 600 buildings have already been announced by the government but details are continuing to emerge on the number of high-rise buildings that are potentially the subject of scrutiny.
Each site, however, carries its own risks and expert scrutiny as there are risks to the removal of cladding without the application of non-combustible alternatives. Exposed insulation on a building’s exterior fails to meet building regulations and is a risk because of the threat of fire spreading across its surface.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has communicated with building control bodies across England. It sets out the Department’s view that if building owners consider that they need to re-clad their building, for example following the results of recent screening for identification of the type of ACM cladding in use, this should be considered as building work and therefore subject to Building Regulations’ requirements. In particular:
“Approaches to demonstrating compliance with fire safety requirements, for example ensuring that cladding and insulation used are of limited combustibility or that a whole wall cladding system BS 8414 test is undertaken. The British Standard 8414 requires that a wall with a complete cladding system – including panels and insulation – fixed to it, is then subject it to a fire that replicates a severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window and whether it then spread up the outside wall.”
“Where panels are removed for inspection or testing purposes, the integrity of the whole cladding system needs to be maintained.”
“The structural design of any replacement cladding needs to be checked – it should not be assumed that existing fixings and systems are suitable for replacement systems.”
“The need to ensure that replacement cladding systems or components protect the building adequately from rain and condensation.”
“Guidance on how to meet energy efficiency requirements when recladding.”
In the time since Grenfell, TowerEight has inspected hundreds of high-rise buildings and is advising some of the UK’s largest property companies in this sensitive and urgent matter. We have carried out comprehensive assessments for the estates of our clients, giving advice on how to assess cladding, and, where necessary, offer solutions for its replacement. One of the key issues at the moment is understanding what constitutes the full build-up, as different build-ups will react in different ways.