Cladding Concerns: Frequently Asked Questions

Following the fire that devastated Grenfell Tower, questions have risen surrounding the safety of residential blocks. Understandably, there has been fears amongst residents across the UK regarding the cladding that surrounds such buildings. Whether you are a leaseholder, freeholder or simply manage the building, it is important to understand why cladding is used and the governments current directions issued for your safety.

What are Cladding Systems?

The term ‘cladding’ refers to the components attached to the primary structure of a building, forming non-structural, external surfaces. While it is attached to the building, it does not contribute to the structure’s stability. It is used for the following:

  • Creating a controlled internal environment
  • Protecting the building from external conditions
  • Preventing transmission of sound
  • Providing thermal insulation
  • Preventing the spread of fire
  • Providing openings for ventilation
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Improving the buildings appearance

Cladding often comes prefabricated in panels which are then attached to the structure of the building. Additional systems can have components that include windows, doors, gutters, roofs and vents.

How is Cladding Chosen?

There are a number of reasons that may contribute to the choice of a particular style of cladding. This includes:

  • Structural, planning and maintenance requirements
  • Internal and external conditions
  • Durability
  • Building regulation requirements
  • Accessibility and buildability
  • Appearance
  • Budget

Care should be taken when selecting a suitable cladding system. Poorly designed and installed cladding can lead to safety issues, ranging from panels pulling away from the structure to the spread of fire.

To ensure the occupants of high-rise buildings are safe, and feel safe, they should be kept informed, and also engage in the decision-making process for cladding. They should also have access to any professional advice and information given.

What is ACM cladding?

Aluminium Composite Material panels consists of two skins of aluminium bonded to both sides of a lightweight core. This core consists of materials such as polyethylene, polyurethane, profiled metal or a mineral core. Due to its variety of surface finishes, colours, light weight and formability, it has been a popular choice for forming cladding used on buildings. In the event of a fire, however, the panels can deteriorate, exposing the core.

ACM cladding has been linked with incidents across several countries, leading some to ban it’s use on towers more than 22m high.

MCHLG Guidance

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has issued guidance when considering whether it is safe to leave small or partial amounts of ACM cladding on a building.

The Independent Expert Advisory Panel considers the following for buildings over 18m:

  • ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler with any insulation presents a significant hazard on buildings over 18m.
  • ACM cladding with fire retardant polyethylene filler presents notable fire hazard.

Owners with these systems should seek the advice of professional to help make their building safe. Due to the risk of fire spread posed by ACM, the Panel views is that leaving any ACM cladding on a building would expose both residents and firefighters to further hazard in the event of a fire. Replacement of the material would be the clearest way to ensure residents safety.

If building owners identify ACM cladding, they should implement the recommended interim safety advice until any necessary work has been completed. Such measures are to reduce risks for a limited period to ensure safety for all residents

In May 2018, directions to local authorities were to pay attention to cladding relating issues, allowing them to act against building owners who have not taken appropriate measures to remove ACM cladding. Authorities will be able to act as they see fit to remove unsafe cladding from premises and recover any costs from the building owner.

If you are a flat owner whose uncertain as to the safety of your buildings cladding, then please consult the management of your building.

 

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