Large scale tests to be done on building panels to help landlords make properties safe

The independent expert panel appointed by the UK Government after the Grenfell tower block fire in London has advised further testing as the next step to be conducted in helping landlords to ensure the safety of their buildings.

Large scale tests are to be conducted to help establish how different types of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels in combination with different types of insulation behave in a fire.

‘The results of these tests will help landlords make decisions on any further measures that may need to be put in place to make their buildings safe following the Grenfell Tower fire. These tests will be undertaken by the BRE and will not require any new samples from buildings,’ said a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Earlier this week the panel brought together a group of technical experts from a wide range of professions and organisations. The group discussed the processes that had been followed to identify whether buildings had ACM panels and the advice provided to building owners on interim measures and agreed that these were the right first steps.

The further tests, which will look at three different types of ACM cladding combined with different types of insulation, will be in accordance with British Standard 8414 in line with the panel’s advice.

This involves building a nine metre tall demonstration wall with a complete cladding system, including panels and insulation, fixed to it, and then subjecting it to a fire that replicates a severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window and whether it then spread up the outside wall.

In addition, the Expert Advisory Panel recommended issuing further practical advice on immediate steps landlords can take to identify their wall materials including insulation, which will be published shortly.

The Government has now commissioned the Building Research Establishment to undertake these tests as a matter of urgency. The results will be made publically available. Landlords will be expected to take their own professional advice on what is required for their buildings in the usual way.

The expert panel has concluded that six combinations of cladding systems should be subjected to the BS8414 test procedure. The detailed design of each of the six will be reviewed by the panel to ensure that it is representative of the systems that are in common use including the way it is fixed.

The six systems will incorporate each of the three common types of aluminium composite material panels, with core filler materials of unmodified polyethylene, fire retardant polyethylene, and non-combustible mineral. The two insulation materials used in the testing will be rigid polyisocyanurate foam or non-combustible mineral wool.

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