Consultation Begins On Combustible Cladding


After continued discussions in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government has now started a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings - and Bureau Veritas is urging those in the construction industry to take the opportunity to share their views.

The consultation, published on 18 June 2018 by Housing Secretary James Brokenshire MP, proposes a complete ban on the use of materials which do not meet class A1 or A2 in the walls of residential buildings which are 18m or over.

Andy Lowe, Technical director at Bureau Veritas, said: “As a leading provider of construction consultancy services to the industry, Bureau Veritas is at the forefront of regulatory change and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to this consultation.

“Fire safety is rightly top of the agenda at the moment and it’s important that we take advantage of this momentum to make improvements to fire safety regulations and remove the ambiguity which currently exists with regard to cladding.

“We urge everybody involved in the construction industry to understand the detail and give their response to this consultation so that the sector can continue to move forward in a safe, efficient and productive way, removing the risk of Grenfell happening again.”

The consultation – what you need to know

Under the consultation, cladding is defined as being from the internal face of the wall through to its external face – with limited exemptions covering parts of the wall including internal wallpaper and paint, window frames, gaskets and seals, vapour membranes, surface finishes and laminated glass that do not present a significant contribution to the risk of fire spread.

The proposal is to ban the use of materials which do not meet class A1 or A2 (commonly known as ‘combustible cladding’) from use.

Whilst the external wall in such buildings is usually separate from the structural frame, any ban would cover the complete wall assembly, including the inner leaf, insulation and the façade or cladding which provides the outermost layer of the external wall.

Current requirements

Currently there are two ways to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations requirements in Approved Document B. The second of these – the BS 8414 test – is well established and has been developed over a number of years under the auspices of the British Standards Institution (BSI). This test method is also recognised in other international jurisdictions.

The Government agrees with the advice of the Expert Panel that systems which have passed the BS 8414 test and have been correctly installed and maintained and therefore meet Building Regulations guidance, provide a safe way to ensure that wall system will resist the spread of fire.

However, the Government also recognises the concerns that the BS 8414 test does not offer as straightforward a way of meeting the requirements of the Regulations as would a ban on the use of combustible materials. The Government therefore considers it right to consult on a ban which would as a consequence remove the flexibility offered to cladding design by the BS 8414 test on high-rise residential buildings.

What else do you need to know?

The consultation also requests views and states that the preferred option would apply to buildings not yet built, but already subject to Building Regulations approval - but not to existing buildings.

You have until 18 August to submit responses. Click here for more information and to access the full consultation.

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