Government’s Building Safety Programme ‘a co-ordinated national response to the fire at Grenfell Tower’

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has established the Building Safety Programme to cover high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres, including hotels, intended to help make sure that residents of high rise buildings are safe – and feel safe.

MHCLG writes:

With the support of local fire and rescue services and a panel of independent expert advisers, MHCLG is supporting building owners in taking immediate steps to ensure their residents’ safety and in making decisions on any remedial work that is necessary to do. The programme is working with building owners, housing providers, schools, hospitals and the construction industry, including an Industry Response Group.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the government appointed an expert panel, chaired by Sir Ken Knight, to advise the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on immediate measures needed to ensure building safety and to help identify buildings of concern. On 5 September the panel’s remit was extended and widened to include other building safety issues. The panel’s members have a wealth of experience in fire and building safety, including testing processes, and are drawing in wider technical expertise as necessary to inform their advice to government.

The government is aware that local authorities and other building owners are also seeking clarification of actions they should take in relation to buildings with other external wall systems. The expert panel will consider these issues after the systems tests are addressed. See details of the independent expert advisory panel’s work.

Advice for building owners on external wall systems with ACM cladding

Shortly after the fire at Grenfell Tower, the independent expert advisory panel advised the government to undertake identification screening of residential buildings over 18 metres tall (in accordance with building regulations guidance on rain-screen cladding). This is in order to identify the type of aluminium composite material (ACM) used. Those checking tests began at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) the following week.

On 6 July 2017, having also spoken to a group of technical experts from a wide range of professions and organisations, the expert panel recommended further large scale testing of cladding systems. This was to better understand better how different types of ACM panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire (these tests can be used to show compliance with the building regulations guidance).

These large scale tests, undertaken by the BRE, looked at 3 different types of ACM cladding combined with different types of insulation, in accordance with British Standard 8414. This involved building a 9-metre high demonstration wall with a complete cladding system fixed to it – including panels and insulation. This was then subjected to a fire designed to replicate the circumstances in which a severe fire breaks out of a window. The spreads of the fire up the outside wall, if any, was then monitored.

See the final consolidated advice after all the tests.

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