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Alsop insists Chips is fire safe despite cladding fears

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Architect Will Alsop has insisted his Chips apartment building in Manchester is fire safe – and ruled himself out of work to reclad the structure

Concerns were raised after cladding panels removed from the architect’s 142-home scheme in New Islington were found to have labels stating they were non-fire retardant.

But Alsop said the 100m-long building, designed for developer Urban Splash, contained other fire protection measures and had been signed off as safe.

‘The cladding has the full seal of approval and building control certificate in 2009,’ Alsop told the AJ.

‘I actually wanted to clad it all in wood, but that was beyond the budget so it was changed to Trespa, which looks a bit like wood.

‘There is fire protection behind [the cladding] and I put my full faith in the building control certificate – it had all the approvals required.’

He said architects could only work to the evidence and protocols of the day.

‘We have just finished some housing in Docklands and we were very careful to make sure we didn’t specify any combustible materials there,’ he said. ‘I believe Chips is safe but you do things differently [now] in light of the evidence from Grenfell Tower.’

Asked if he would be interested in reworking Chips if building management company RMG deemed it necessary, Alsop replied: ‘I have finished with that building. It was a fine building and won awards. I have moved on.’

RMG operations director Justin Herbert confirmed that a review by fire specialists had identified risks with the cladding system.

He added: ‘The Trespa panel, which is the original material installed on the building when it received the final building control certificate in September 2009, removed as part of the analysis did state non-fire retardant.’

Mitigating measures are in place to ensure the building is safe, with a bill being passed on to residents. A longer-term fire safety plan is yet to be finalised.

‘We totally sympathise with the situation the leaseholders are in and we will do all we can to minimise the costs whilst ensuring their safety and compliance with guidance,’ said Herbert.

Urban Splash sold the freehold on the Chips building to E&J Estates in 2012.

A spokesman for E&J said: ‘We are pleased to see that RMG and Urban Splash are dealing with the situation.’

Urban Splash and Trespa International have been contacted for comment.


Readers' comments (5)

  • If the cladding is installed in conjunction with a rainscreen system ( airgap between main structure and exterior panel) then it is inherently unsafe.
    This has been known about for years. The RIBA, the BRE and Building Control administrators need their collective feet held to the fire. Heads should roll. Charitable privileges should be revoked and the perps should be facing jail.

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  • No editing facility for the comments section. I should of course, made it clear that the perps and jail were in regards to the Grenfell crimes.

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  • Out of the frying pan...

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  • Geoff Williams

    The danger of fire in high rise structures is always imminent although we like to think they are a rare occurrence. Fighting fire in congested City locations and fighting fires internally above 7 floors is a distinct hazard. Maintenance of the electrical supply is paramount. Experts in Germany maintain that up to 40% of fires Worldwide have an electrical cable origin. The use of a 2hour fire rated cable, preferably MICC, should be mandatory.
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  • Phil Parker

    "The man that once did sell the lion's skin / While the beast lived, was killed with hunting him." --Shakespeare, Henry V.

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