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UK Court Cuts Part of Combustible Cladding Ban

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

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Part of the United Kingdom’s combustible cladding ban was thrown out by the courts earlier this month following a lawsuit filed by the British Blind & Shutter Association.

In light of the ruling, the government revealed that there are still more than 300 high-rise buildings with the aluminum composite cladding that was blamed for London’s fatal June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

Fire Background

During the early hours of June 14, 2017, a fire broke out in one of west London’s high-rises, the Grenfell Tower. The 24-story, 120-home apartment building had recently undergone a $12.73 million renovation that was completed in the spring of 2016.

Natalie Oxford, CC-BY-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of the United Kingdom’s combustible cladding ban was thrown out by the courts earlier this month following a lawsuit filed by the British Blind & Shutter Association.

At that time, the building was refurbished with a system of polyester powder-coated aluminum rain-screen panels, insulated exterior cladding and double-glazed windows, as well as a communal heating system.

After the fire, which resulted in the death of 72 people, a criminal investigation was opened by the Metropolitan Police Service.

According to Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack at the time, “Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the tests started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.”

In response to these results, police declared that manslaughter charges would be considered.

In April of 2018, new investigations revealed that the cladding fitted on the Grenfell Tower had been downgraded before it was installed on the London high-rise. According to tests that BBC News uncovered from 2014 and 2015, a zinc cladding had originally been specified for the tower, but another brand was substituted for a savings of roughly $388,700.

The following month, former Prime Minister Theresa May pledged $517.9 million to cover the replacement of unsafe cladding for social housing blocks. Privately owned towers were left to figure out the replacements on their own, however.

As a result, many property owners passed the renovation charges to residents, which in some cases cost them thousands of dollars to make their homes safe again.

Cladding Ban

In December 2018, the U.K. announced a ban on combustible materials. Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced that under the new legislation, combustible materials would not be permitted in the exterior walls for new buildings more than 18 meters (59 feet) tall. Those buildings include homes, hospitals, residential care facilities, dormitories and other student accommodations.

ChiralJon, CC-SA-BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In December 2018, the U.K. announced a ban on combustible materials. Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced that under the new legislation, combustible materials would not be permitted in the exterior walls for new buildings more than 18 meters (59 feet) tall.

The ban limits the use of materials to products that achieve a European fire-resistance rating of Class A1 or A2. The legislation also cleared up what exactly the government meant by an “exterior wall,” defining it as an external wall as anything “located within any space forming part of the wall.” It also includes any decoration or finishes applied to external surfaces, windows or doors; roof pitches at an angle of more than 70 degrees; balconies and devices for deflecting sunlight and solar panels.

The policy also prohibits the use of timber materials in the external wall of buildings in those parameters as well, which will stop many project in their tracks, according to the Architects’ Journal, referring to developers using the cross-laminated timber construction method.

The materials ban took effect Dec. 21, 2018.

Recent Ruling & Remediation Work

According to a document published by the Housing Ministry earlier this month, part of the combustible materials ban was overhauled. The court rules that the ban should not have included materials used on shutters, blinds and other products designed to reduce a building’s heat gain.

The British Blind & Shutter Association argued that it was not properly consulted before the ban.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “This judgment relates to a very specific and small list of products and it is still our position that no developer should consider putting such products on a tall building.”

As the case unfolded, the latest figures emerged regarding how many towers still have the ACM cladding systems: 319.

In May, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Housing announced that combustible Grenfell Tower-style cladding on private residential high-rise blocks would be replaced at the cost of roughly 200 million pounds ($258.9 million) and that the government would foot the bill. Previously, the government had only committed to publicly owned structures.

However, the U.K. Cladding Action Group—a coalition of private lease holders­ who had been facing bills over $103,000—stressed at the time that the funding wouldn’t cover the removal of all the cladding or the costs of other fire protection measures, including 24-hour patrols.

Remediation quotes have been reported to range between $5.1 and $7.8 million, while the available funding averages about $1.5 million per building.

In the case materials, it was reported that 175 of the 319 were residential buildings in the private sector, while a further 93 were social-sector residential buildings.

In addition: 27 of the outstanding private-sector buildings with ACM cladding have had remediation work start, there are plans to remediate another 74 and another 74 are allegedly in the process of having a remediation plan developed.

   

Tagged categories: Cladding; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Fire; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Safety

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