Following the devastating events that recently occurred at Grenfell Tower, we felt that it would be worthwhile to provide some general guidance to our clients.
Whilst the main area that the media are concentrating on is the residential tower block premises, there are many other buildings where combustible cladding and composite panels may have been used. Typically these will have been used to improve the thermal and sound insulation qualities during construction of modern buildings and refurbishment of older properties.
We would suggest that the following actions are undertaken:
- Identify the building construction.
There are many different types of composite panels and cladding systems available. As such this is an incredibly difficult topic to provide advice on without the full specifics as to the proposed use of a particular product, including where and how it is to be used.
The combustibility of insulation material, even when not part of a panel system, should be considered carefully. Insulation, and insulation within composite materials can generally be regarded under the following ascending categories; Combustible, Fire Retardant, Approved Fire Retardant, Fire Resistant and Incombustible. Our strong recommendation is that the materials used should be fire resistant or incombustible. Ultimately they will need to comply with the relevant Building Regulations and Standards applicable at the time of installation including the test criteria for their situation, location and the circumstances in which they are used.
There are many low rise buildings where composite panels with potentially combustible cores will have been used in their construction, and, whilst this does potentially affect what will happen to the building in a major fire situation, no undue concern is warranted from a life safety perspective, subject to the completion of an adequate Fire Risk Assessment.
- Review your Fire Risk Assessment *
Ensure all findings are understood and actions raised are addressed
Undertake a review of fire evacuation and emergency plans to ensure they are still relevant, including ease of evacuation and means by which the alarm is raised
Ensure all fire safety equipment and systems are in good condition, maintained and suitably sited (we recommend the use of a suitable fire log/checklist)
Where the Assessment identifies that the structure’s fire safety arrangements are largely reliant upon passive fire protection, adequate emphasis is given to the maintenance of fire compartments, service risers and condition of fire doors.
*As required by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which applies to England and Wales. There is similar legislation applying to Scotland. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will also expect compliance with the general aims of the Order, under their own local legislation.
A register of accredited Fire Risk Assessors can be found at http://www.ife.org.uk/Fire-Risk
- Share your findings
Where actions are required of residents or tenants, and/or there are changes in responsibilities, actions or procedures these must be communicated effectively to those concerned and validation received that these are understood.
Typically, your Local Authority, Fire Authority, Tenant Management Organisation or Landlord Managing Agent would be available to support these communications and should also be made aware of any findings.
- What about future cladding/refurbishment contracts
With the drive and desire to improve thermal efficiency it is likely that in many ‘older’ purpose built blocks the over cladding with insulation will continue as will the use of such products as part of modern construction methods.
The latest advice from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for owners, landlords and managers of private residential blocks in England is available, click here to view.
Any concerns around cladding systems and fire risk assessments should, in the first instance, be raised with the Fire Service and/or the DCLG.
If you have any further concerns, please feel free to speak your Lark Account Handler or contact Lark Risk Managers, Geoff Hales or David Gaskin.
Geoff.firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 07891 602052
David.email@example.com Tel 07557 153050