New cladding tests reveal further safety failings

Cladding used on 111 high-rise blocks across Britain, 90 of which are owned or managed by social housing providers, have now failed a second round of fire safety tests in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

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.’

Owners are being advised to get a fire safety audit done by their local fire service and consult a qualified engineer with relevant experience in fire safety, including fire testing of building products and systems, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institution of Fire Engineers about removing and replacing cladding.

Last month the government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. It will examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety as well as related compliance and enforcement issues.

One group of tenants in Camden, north London, have decided that they do not want to wait for the government to take action, and are now raising funds to commission their own independent fire safety report.

After more than 3,000 residents, including many private tenants, living on a housing estate in Camden were evacuated overnight in June after fire inspectors said four tower blocks were at risk following the Grenfell Tower blaze, a group of residents have set up the online donation page, which has a target of raising £3,000, to pay for independent fire safety checks.

“It is a lot to ask for granted but worth every penny to put people’s minds at ease and to make sure we are not living in death traps,” said Robert Kukaj, who help setup the online donation page.

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Written by: Houseladder