Second cladding system gets fire test ‘all clear’

Aaron Morby 1 month ago
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The first cladding system using PIR solid foam insulation has passed the Government’s stringent fire tests in the wake of London’s Grenfell disaster.

fire test
Aluminium cladding using a limited combustibility filler (A2) and PIR foam insulation boards passes BRE large-scale fire test

It is the second cladding system to pass the large-scale fire test giving the industry a clear insight into which systems meet Building Regulation performance guidance.

The latest test results now suggest that PIR insulation can be fitted to a high-rise building, but only when used with aluminium composite material cladding using a ‘limited combustibility’ (stone) filler.

So far no high-rise buildings have been registered with the Government as having this particular combination of materials.

The Government’s testing body is carrying out a total of seven tests incorporating each of the three common types of aluminium cladding material panel, using either core filler materials of unmodified polyethylene (PE), fire retardant polyethylene (FR), or limited combustibility mineral (A2).

These are being tested in combination with two insulation materials – rigid polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam or non-combustible stone wool. The seventh test, recently added to the testing programme, will examine the performance of commonly-used phenolic foam board with ACM with a fire resistant filler (A2).

Designers and contractors will be eagerly awaiting this result, in particular.

With just one other test result due in for what is the least combustible combination of elements a picture is now emerging of which cladding systems meet the Building Regulations.

Cladding system tests Result 18m-plus buildings
ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler with PIR foam insulation Failed 82
ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler (PE) with mineral wool insulation Failed 111
ACM with a fire retardant polyethylene filler (PE) with PIR foam insulation Failed 13
ACM with fire retardant polyethylene filler (FR) with mineral insulation Passed 13
ACM with a limited combustibility filler (FR) with phenolic foam insulation Not published N/A
ACM with a limited combustibility filler (A2) with PIR foam insulation Passed 0
ACM with a limited combustibility filler (A2) with mineral wool insulation Not published N/A

 

Findings so far suggest that at least 206 buildings over 18m in height that have been reported to the Government will need to be reclad.

Unmodified polyethylene filled ACM cladding, like that used on the Grenfell tower, fails Building Regulation requirements.

An aluminium cladding system using fire retardent polyethylene filler (FR) could be used, but only when installed in conjunction with mineral wool insulation and not PIR foam board.

ACM cladding using limited combustibility filler (A2) can be used with PIR foam insulation boards.

A cladding industry source said: “These results must be welcomed because they bring some clarity to what systems comply with Building Regulation requirements.

“But the use of the terminology used by manufacturers around combustibility of fillers used in aluminium cladding needs to be addressed to end market confusion.”

Another added: “The importance of these tests are that we can finally move forward with confidence in the industry.

“What is disappointing is BRE’s obsession with ACM. They have to start carrying out the same testing on other products, high pressure laminate, for example.”

Even with the latest test information the Government still advises that building owners need to continue to take professional advice regarding remedial work that takes into account the specific circumstances of their building.

The way materials have been fitted and maintained can also affect the safety of the cladding system.

Last month the government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, focussed on the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management as well as related compliance and enforcement issues.

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