Fire safety and design  

Combustible materials to be banned on high-rise buildings

In early October 2018, the Government announced a ban of the use of combustible materials upon high-rise buildings. The policy comes after the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA, called for an urgent prevention of the use of combustible materials upon the outside of buildings.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is remediating various residential buildings with combustible cladding and insulation through a £400m fund and placing pressure on private owners to remediate. As a response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, which killed 72 people, the policy applies to certain residential buildings over 18 meters tall and is a call to urgently change the culture of building safety.

Cladding refers to the materials that form the external part of a construction; it is used to protect a building against the weather, whilst improving its appearance and providing acoustic benefits and thermal insulation. One of the reasons researchers believe the 24-storey Grenfell Tower set alight so quickly was the use of aluminium cladding (with plastic core), which contributed to how quickly the flames encompassed the building. The new policy prevents combustible materials, such what Grenfell Tower was built of, being used.

The policy will prevent all combustible materials being used to clad and insulate new buildings in England and Wales, including care homes, student accommodation, and hospitals. When existing building's facades are refurbished, no combustible cladding or insulation will be used. The ban covers a building’s complete wall assembly, inclusive of the inner leaf and insulation upon the facade which provides the outer layer of a building’s external wall. The materials that have been approved will reach a European classification of Class A1 or A2 such as plasterboard, metal, stone and glass.

The ban is a crucial step to strengthen fire safety policy in high-rise buildings, to learn more, click here.