14 August 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has completed the fourth in the government's series of large-scale fire safety tests.
This will allow experts to better understand how different types of cladding panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire.
This fourth test was of a wall-cladding system consisting of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with a fire-resistant polyethylene filler (category 2 in screening tests) and stone wool insulation (a form of mineral wool). This combination of materials has passed the test.
The government's expert panel advises that the results show that this combination of materials can be compliant with current Building Regulations when installed and maintained properly. It could therefore offer a possible solution for some buildings with other cladding systems that have been identified as a hazard.
But the panel notes that cladding and insulation materials can vary between manufacturers and can have different calorific values. The way materials have been fitted and maintained can also affect the safety of the cladding system.
Therefore the clear advice from the panel is that building owners need to continue to take professional advice as to whether any remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their building. The test results will help inform this work, but they must also take into account the specific circumstances of their building.
There are 13 buildings over 18 metres tall in England that are known to have this combination of ACM with a fire-resistant polyethylene filler (category 2), and stone wool insulation. Following initial screening tests, the government issued advice to building owners detailing immediate interim safety measures that needed to be undertaken. These measures have been completed for all 13 of these buildings.
The government announced the independent review of building regulations and fire safety on 28 July 2017. This forward-looking review will examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and continuing management of buildings in relation to fire safety as well as related compliance and enforcement issues after a fire in Grenfell Tower claimed at least 80 lives in June.
Results of the first three tests have already been published. Results of all remaining large-scale tests will be published when they are available.