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Briefings

Consolidated Advice on Large Scale Fire Tests

Date: 08/09/17

Consolidated Advice on Large Scale Fire Tests

Consolidated Advice on Large Scale Fire Tests

With the conclusion of the seven large scale fire tests commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG)  Building Safety Programme, DCLG has published its consolidated advice for building owners. HBF has previously provided information on the separate tests including their respective advice notes as well as background on the testing regime, available here and here.

Test no.

Date

ACM Panel type

Insulation type

Status

Test report

Advice for building owners

1

28 July

ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler (category 3)

Foam

FAIL

Test report 1

Advice note 1

2

2 Aug

ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler (category 3)

Stone wool

FAIL

Test report 2

Advice note 2

3

8 Aug

ACM with fire retardant polyethylene filler (category 2)

PIR foam

FAIL

Test report 3

Advice note 3

4

11 Aug

ACM with fire retardant polyethylene filler (category 2)

Stone wool

PASS

Test report 4

Advice note 4

5

14 Aug

ACM with A2 filler (category 1)

PIR foam

PASS

Test report 5

Advice note 5

6

25 Aug

ACM with A2 filler (category 1)

Stone wool

PASS

Test report 6

Advice note 6

7

 

21 Aug

ACM with fire retardant polyethylene filler (category 2 in screening tests)

(additional test)

phenolic foam

FAIL

Test report 7

Advice note 7

In England 278 buildings were screened and covered by large scale tests which included 27 private residential buildings. Only one of these private residential buildings had a cladding system which passed the test.

 

 

Number screened

Large scale Tests

 

Cat.2 ACM

Cat.3 ACM

Total

Tests 1, 2, 3, 7 (Fail)

Tests 4,5,6 (Pass)

Total

Social Housing

29

144

173

165

8

173

Public Buildings

4

12

16

18

0

16

Private: student residential

12

50

62

59

3

62

Private: residential

7

20

27

26

1

27

Total

52

226

278

266

12

278

The latest consolidated advice note reconfirms the following key findings of the tests:

  • ACM cladding with unmodified polyethylene filler (category 3) presents a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18m with any form of insulation. 
  • ACM cladding with fire retardant polyethylene filler (category 2):
    • presents a notable fire hazard on buildings over 18m when used with rigid polymeric foam based on the evidence currently available.
    • can be safe on buildings over 18m if used with non-combustible insulation (e.g. stone wool), and where materials have been fitted and maintained appropriately, and the building’s construction meets the other provisions of Building Regulations guidance, including provision for fire breaks and cavity barriers.
  • ACM cladding with A2 filler (category 1) can be safe on buildings over 18m with foam insulation or stone wool insulation, if materials have been fitted and maintained appropriately, and the building’s construction meets the other provisions of Building Regulations guidance, including provision for fire breaks and cavity barriers.

DCLG cautions that even in the case of combinations that passed the test, many different variants of these claddings and insulations exist and that it is possible that products from different manufacturers may behave differently in a fire. Building owners of buildings using material combinations which have passed the test are advised to:

  • Take professional advice on whether any remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their building. This may need to consider whether the construction of their building meets the other provisions of Building Regulations guidance including fire stopping between floors and the required cavity barriers in place.
  • If any remedial work is undertaken building owners will need to take professional advice to ensure that work is undertaken safely.
  • Assure themselves that remedial work also complies with Building Regulations guidance on how the system is designed and fitted – including provisions for fire breaks and cavity barriers.
  • The fire safety of buildings must be maintained by the responsible persons at all times under the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

For building owners of buildings which have failed the test, DCLG continues to advice to implement the interim mitigation measures while seeking advice from local fire and rescue services as well as professional advice on what further steps to take with respect to their cladding system. In addition building owners should:

  • Take full professional advice on what remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their building. This may need to consider the combination of materials used in the cladding system, as well as whether the construction of their building meets the other provisions of Building Regulations guidance including fire stopping between floors and the required cavity barriers in place. 
  • Building owners will need to take professional advice to ensure that any remedial work is undertaken safely (for example from an expert in cladding systems with relevant experience), and to ensure any replacement materials are safe.
  • Ensure that when any work is carried out, including removing cladding, care is taken to consider the impact that removal may have on the other wall elements, and therefore on the overall structural and fire integrity of the building as well as other Building Regulation requirements. In particular care should be taken to ensure that insulation material is not exposed to the elements unnecessarily.
  • The fire safety of buildings must be maintained by the responsible persons at all times under the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Where building owners have wall systems which aren’t clearly covered by the tests, DCLG advice is:

  • Category 3 ACM panels follow the advice for building owners with wall systems failing the test.
  • Category 2 ACM panels, take professional advice based on the specific circumstances of their building.
  • Category 1 ACM panels should similarly obtain professional advice to assure themselves that their building is safe.

The advice note provides a number of FAQs including My building’s cladding isn’t made of ACM. Does that mean it’s safe?, I only have ACM cladding on part of my building. Do I need to take it off?  and We have cassettes, not flat panels; does that matter?. For a full list of FAQs covered see the advice note here.

The advice notes provides some indication of the Government’s next step relating to this work programme. Besides the already well-publicised Independent Review of the Building Regulatory and Fire Safety System, led by Dame Judith Hackitt which is expected to produce an interim report by November, the Government will also, in collaboration with the Industry Response Group and the Expert Panel, develop a series of briefing notes to inform key stages of remediation with the first note expected to be issued later in September. DCLG proposes to align the briefing notes with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work (a guide which sets out the different stages of a construction project). Examples of the briefing notes DCLG expects to publish include advice on feasibility issues and options appraisal, including a summary of cladding systems available and issues to be considered when replacing part or all of the cladding system; and information on procurement approaches and available frameworks.  DCLG will also consider whether further advise is needed for building owners in relation to wider issues beyond the current focus on ACM cladding. As a first step to understand what other cladding systems may be safe on high rise buildings, the BRE has sought permission from its clients and is publishing a list of historical data on cladding systems which have passed the BS8414 test set out in current Building Regulations guidance. The catalogue can be accessed here.

Victoria Brauer 
Policy Analyst