Cladding panels used on Grenfell Tower would have burnt even if used in conjunction with non-combustible insulation, according to a new government test
The government has commissioned the Building Research Establishment to carry out half a dozen tests into different combinations of cladding materials.
The second of these tests – on a system using aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with a polyethylene filler combined with fire-resistant stone wall insulation – failed to meet safety standards.
A statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: ‘This wall system failed the test, which means it did not adequately resist the spread of fire over the wall to the standard required by the current Building Regulations guidance and which is set out in BR135.
‘The expert panel’s advice is that, based on the test result, they do not believe that any wall system containing an ACM category 3 cladding panel, even when combined with limited combustibility insulation material, would meet current Building Regulations guidance, and are not aware of any tests of such combinations meeting the standard set by BR135.
‘Wall systems with these materials, therefore, present a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18m.’
It said 111 buildings were known to have this combination of materials in their wall cladding systems, 90 of which were owned or managed by social housing providers.
These buildings are now likely to be stripped of the non-compliant cladding materials.
The department has also issued guidance to building owners looking to remove their cladding, urging them to take professional advice on how to undertake remedial work safely.
And it also stressed the importance that ‘when any work is carried out, including removing cladding, care is taken to consider the impact that removal may have on the other wall elements, and therefore on the overall structural and fire integrity of the building as well as other Building Regulation requirements.
‘In particular, care should be taken so that insulation material is not exposed to the elements unnecessarily.’
Earlier this week, the first test in the BRE series gave its lowest fire-safety rating to the polyethylene filling in cladding panels used on the Studio E-designed refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, and at least 60 other tower blocks.