Cladding in construction is used to provide thermal insulation, some degree of weather resistance, and aesthetic improvements to a building’s exterior wall. It can be fashioned out of a variety of materials, including wood, metal, brick, vinyl, and composite materials that are a combination of those materials. The cladding is usually installed with an air cavity between the cladding and the building’s exterior wall to facilitate water rundown.
While usually helpful and effective in doing its intended purpose, the cladding in buildings has been under scrutiny due to the role that it played on the disaster at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. The 2017 fire, which claimed 72 lives and injured 70 others, was said to have been exacerbated by the building’s flammable cladding, which helped spread the fire from the lower floors all the way to the top. The incident has since brought attention to the practice of using combustible material for cladding, especially in high rise buildings.
Investigations have concluded that the cladding, which was made of flammable aluminium composite materials (ACM), was chosen to save on the cost.
What You Need to Know
Some of the most dangerous forms of cladding, aside from the ACM types that worsened the Grenfell fire, are metal composite materials, or cladding faced with zinc, copper or steel. If you live in a residential building, then the responsibility to carry out repairs or renovations in ensuring that the inhabitants of a building are safe falls on your property owner, according to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This includes ensuring that your building’s cladding should be replaced with fire-resistant materials.
The estimated cost of renovation per flat to ensure fire safety is about £20,000 to £90,000 according to Rituparna Saha of UK Cladding Action Group. Some building insurance providers will not cover the cost of replacing dangerous cladding, arguing that if a block has already met previous safety standards, then the matter is out of their hands. This is why home or property owners looking to renovate their property should check with their insurance providers before carrying out repair or renovation work.
What You Can Do
If you’re a tenant, you should ask your building manager for an Updated Fire Safety Report issued after December 2018, which is when the government updated its advice on fire safety in highrise buildings. This includes prohibiting the use of combustible material for cladding for new buildings over 18 meters high.
The advice specifically states that cladding should now be made with steel, stone, glass, and other materials that can achieve a European fire rating of Class A1 or A2. If your manager has not taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your building’s inhabitants, it’s best to organise your fellow tenants and put pressure on the management to act on their responsibilities.
If you’re a building manager or property owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your tenants are safe, according to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. If your building uses cladding, then the cost of removing or replacing them with fire-resistant materials will fall on your shoulders. You should contact reputable cladding contractors immediately to replace any combustible cladding that may be installed on your property.
At this point, you now know the cladding can easily pose a significant threat to your building. From what has happened in the past, you must ensure that safety of the structure’s inhabitants so that you can prevent another Grenfell fire incident.
Stanlil are a leading construction contractor with experience in undertaking design & build projects for healthcare, government, and even industrial plants throughout the UK. If you want to ensure that your building remains safe for the long run, get in touch with us.