News - Construction News

Expert panel advise on fourth large-scale fire safety test

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has undertaken the fourth in a series of large-scale fire safety tests commissioned by the UK government post Grenfell Tower.

It is hoped that in-depth testing will reveal how different cladding materials react to fire when paired up with various kinds of insulation.

This fourth test trialed an Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding system with fire resistant polyethylene filler (‘category 2’ in screening tests) and stone wool insulation – a form of mineral wool.

According to BRE, this combination of materials passed muster, with government advisers announcing its compliance with the current Building Regulations – providing it is installed and maintained properly, that is. As such, it is a viable alternative for buildings with substandard or hazardous cladding systems.

This is not a blanket endorsement however. According to the advisory board, cladding and insulation materials can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Different calorific values are possible, and the way in which materials have been installed and maintained can negatively impact the safety of the cladding system.

Consequently, the government’s advisers have urged property owners to consult with a professional when addressing whether remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their buildings.

To date, 13 structures over 18 metres tall in England are known to have this specific combination of ACM with fire resistant polyethylene filler (category 2) and stone wool insulation. Following initial screening, the government has issued guidance to property owners detailing immediate interim safety measures to be undertaken. These measures have been completed in all 13 of the buildings.

The government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety on 28 July 2017. 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.

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