Latest government fire safety tests published

The fourth in the government’s series of large-scale fire safety tests has been completed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

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 results show that this combination of materials comply with current Building Regulations when installed and maintained properly. However the Expert Panel note that cladding and insulation materials can vary between manufacturers and can have different calorific values. The way it has been fitted and maintained can also affected the safety of the system.

Therefore the Expert Panel advise that building owners continue to take professional advice as to whether any remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their building.

13 buildings over 18 metres tall in England are known to have this combination of cladding. Following initial screening tests, government issued advice to building owners detailing immediate interim safety measures that needed to be undertaken. The measures have been completed.

Responding to the latest fire safety test result, Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils with a combination of ACM cladding and insulation on their high-rise blocks have already taken steps and put in measures to reassure residents about safety. It is important that the testing process is now moving towards identifying what materials landlords should be replacing these systems with.

“We are talking to the councils affected about the costs they now face to remove and replace cladding and insulation systems on their high-rise blocks.

“With test fails affecting buildings owned by a range of different landlords across the country, it is clear that the current building regulation system has failed. It is also clear that councils cannot afford to carry out this work.

“As a result, we remain firmly of the view that the government needs to meet the exceptional cost to councils of removing and replacing cladding and insulation on high-rise blocks.

“Councils want to ensure all residents in their local area are safe in their homes, regardless of whether they own the block or not. There are concerns that other landlords in some areas are not acting as quickly to inform residents about test fails and lack the urgency shown by councils to identify their buildings with the cladding and insulation systems which have failed tests so far and take steps to make them safe.

“We also continue to seek clarity from the government about the powers available to councils to help encourage landlords to take such action.”