Over 100 tower blocks fail new Government fire safety tests because of external cladding

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More than 100 buildings in the UK have failed fire-safety tests due to the external cladding used on them.

Some 111 high-rise blocks use a combination of material which failed the second of six new tests rolled out at the recommendation of an independent expert safety panel.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed that a cladding system using aluminium composite material (ACM) panels with a polyethylene filler, and stone wool insulation “does not meet current building regulation guidance”. 

The tests were ordered after it emerged that the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze, which killed at least 80 people, was made worse by the cladding used on the building.


Cladding: Samples have been sent in for testing from buildings across the UK (AFP)

In the aftermath of the blaze, local authorities evacuated concerned residents from potentially dangerous buildings and the Government ordered tests to be carried out on others.

Of the affected buildings, 90 are said to be local authority or housing association-owned or managed.

Cladding samples from all 111 buildings had already failed the initial combustibility tests, also conducted by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).


Major task: Workmen removing cladding for safety tests on the Chalcots estate in Camden (Jeremy Selwyn)

Experts had previously expressed concerns that material was being tested too severely after hundreds of the samples sent in failed the standards for flammability.

The new tests involve a nine metre demonstration wall subjected to a replication of “a severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window” to see if the flames then spread up the exterior. 

It is suspected that ACM panels on the outside of Grenfell Tower fuelled the spread of the fatal blaze, acting as kindling once the fire took hold.


Blaze: It is suspected that panels on the outside of Grenfell Tower fuelled the spread of flames (Jeremy Selwyn)

Wall systems using both combinations which have failed the latest tests present “a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18m”, the DCLG warned. 

It is urging building owners with the failed combinations of material to “put in place a plan to review the cladding system and undertake remedial work, in particular to remove cladding”. 

An “obvious option”, it said, would be to replace the existing facades with a wall system where each element is of limited combustibility.

It is warning landlords to act on its issued advice “to ensure the safety of residents”. 

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