Skip to content

Further urgent cladding tests being carried out in wake of London tower block disaster

Further urgent large scale tests are to be carried out on cladding on residential apartment blocks in the UK to give owners and landlords information on what they should be doing to make sure the buildings are safe.

The announcement from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said it is to establish if different filler materials in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding is of a type that meets the combustibility requirements of current Building Regulations guidance.

‘Following expert advice further large scale tests will be undertaken over the coming weeks. The tests will provide further information that building owners can use to take decisions about any further action needed,’ the statement says.

‘Building owners should take their own professional advice on any further action, reflecting their own particular circumstances. Building owners have been given advice on interim measures they should take while they are awaiting further information and advice, and if necessary, before any remedial action is carried out,’ it continues.

‘We encourage them to follow that advice. The Government will work with industry to support building owners undertake any remedial work needed. Government is acting to support owners and residents of high rise buildings to ensure fire safety in the light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy,’ it adds.

The move comes as the Local Government Association (LGA) called for an urgent and immediate review of building regulations following the fire in which at least 80 people lost their lives and hundreds were left homeless.
‘We cannot wait for the result of the public inquiry or coroner’s report before this review is started. We have to act based on what we know now, while being prepared to revisit the building regulations again in the future if any additional lessons need to be learned,’ said Lord Porter, LGA chairman.

‘There is complexity and confusion in the current system that must be addressed and local government must play a central role in this review from the outset. The review needs to consider how easy it is to use, comply with and understand the building regulations and the associated documents supporting them, particularly those relating to the installation of cladding and insulation on external walls of buildings and how the building control, fire safety and planning regimes interact,’ he pointed out.

‘Councils will do whatever it takes to ensure our residents are all safe in their homes. We have been clear all along that entire cladding panels and the insulation behind them need to be fire tested together as a system, rather than just the core of the panels on their own, and are also pleased these much needed changes to the testing process will now happen. It is vital that we get this right and this whole system testing needs to happen as soon as possible,’ he added.

‘The industry and BRE needs to waive this confidentiality in the public interest to assist the Government and councils in gathering as complete a picture as possible of what is and is not acceptable in cladding systems. These are exceptional circumstances when not only the safety of thousands of residents, but also the peace of mind of many more, is at stake,’ Lord Porter concluded.

In an update, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said it is now believed that no more than 208 local authority and housing association residential blocks over 18 metres tall have been fitted with aluminium composite material cladding. Some 189 of these have had cladding samples tested by the BRE, having been tested by proxy or they have already had their cladding taken down. None of them have passed the limited combustibility test.
Samples from a further 12 towers have been submitted this week and they are now being tested. The BRE has yet to see samples from seven towers, all of them managed by housing associations.

He hit out at those who have not submitted samples. ‘A month after the tests began, this is simply unacceptable and I expect to see them all submitting samples without any further delay,’ said Javid.

‘On the advice of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel on Building Safety, the BRE is now undertaking system testing that will help establish how combinations of different types of ACM panels with different types of insulation behave in a fire,’ he added.

Six different combinations of materials are being tested and the first results are expected next week. As soon as results are available they will be shared first with local authorities and housing associations who have confirmed that their properties are clad in the same combination of material types tested. Javid said that this will allow them to properly communicate the results to residents. The results will then be made publically available, via DCLG’s website.

‘The results will provide further information that building owners and their professional advisers can use to take decisions about what, if any, remedial action is required. Although legal responsibility for fire safety enforcement lies with local authorities, I do have the power to direct an authority to consider these test results as part of their duty to keep housing conditions under review,’ Javid explained.

‘If necessary, I will not hesitate to use this power, which could lead to enforcement action being taken against a landlord if a fire risk is not dealt with. I do hope it will not come to that,’ he added.