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More tests being carried out on high rise tower cladding in UK

An independent review of building regulations and fire safety has been announced by the British Government as more tests are being carried out on the kind of cladding used on residential tower blocks.

The latest test found that a wall cladding system consisting of aluminium composite material (ACM) with polyethylene filler and foam insulation, with fire breaks and cavity barriers in place does not meet current building regulations. More tests are now being carried out.

Landlords of some 82 buildings known to have the combination used in the latest test are now being urged to check them and carry out work to ensure they become safe in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in London which left at least 80 people dead and raised serious concerns about the fire safety of such high rises with cladding.

The government has issued advice to every building owner known to be affected and other interested parties, including management companies. It also said that immediate action is underway to ensure the safety of residents.

The latest tests simulate a tall building and allow experts to understand better how different types of cladding panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire.

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has now started a further programme to test the wall system of a building in its entirety. Three different types of ACM cladding are being combined with two different types of insulation to test their combustibility when taken together, with six combinations being tested in total.

Each test involves building a nine metre high demonstration wall with a complete cladding system including cladding panels, insulation and cavity barriers. This is then subjected to a replica of a severe fire inside a flat as it spreads out of a window, to see whether it meets the requirement to resist vertical fire spread.

‘This next phase of testing provides further information for landlords to make informed decisions about what actions to take to ensure the safety of residents and reassure the public.
This reconfirms the advice already provided to building owners about the immediate steps they should take to ensure buildings are safe,’ said a statement from the Independent Expert Advisory Panel.

‘Landlords of buildings with cladding using the same combination of materials as in this first full scale test must now act on the additional advice they have been given since this test, to seek professional advice about any necessary remedial work,’ it added.

The safety review will examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety, related compliance and enforcement issues, and international regulation and experience in this area and be chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt. It is expected that the review will present an interim report before the end of the year, and a final report no later than spring 2018.