The government was warned four years ago about the risks of Grenfell-style cladding but did not act, it has emerged
Minutes from a meeting of the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology’s fire group in July 2014 show that civil servants responsible for health and safety were alerted of the risk to high-rise buildings from aluminium and polyethylene cladding.
This type of cladding, known as ACM, was fitted to Grenfell during refurbishment works on the tower completed in 2016.
The minutes, released under FOI to Inside Housing, show that Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) officials were warned that the government’s building regulation guidance was ’not clear’ in banning its use.
They were told: ’There have been major fires in buildings in various parts of the world where ACM materials have been used for the cladding with the ACM responsible for the external fire spread.
’It was stated that [official guidance] is intended to prohibit the use of polyethylene-cored ACM in buildings over 18m … This is not clear from the wording of the current clause.’
The minutes also reveal that the Building Research Establishment (BRE) agreed to draft a clarification to clearly outlaw the material – but this was not done.
Since the Grenfell Tower fire, there has been a debate over whether the government’s official fire guidance – Approved Document B – required cladding panels to be of ‘limited combustibility’.
The government insists it does, but industry figures disagree, saying the standard the guidance set was ‘Class 0’ or ‘Euroclass B’.
According to the meeting minutes, the civil servant said that they believed that Approved Document B banned the use of flammable ACM through a clause stipulating that insulation materials or products should be of limited combustibility.
However, this argument was rejected by industry delegates, who said that, while ACM cladding was used to keep insulation dry, it had no insulation function itself.
An MHCLG spokesperson told Inside Housing: ’As we have said repeatedly, our view is that the limited combustibility requirements in the guidance cover the core filler of a cladding panel.
’We are consulting on a ban on the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings.’