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1678 high-risk buildings still clad in combustible materials

Experts are concerned that a Government ban on the materials does not extend to all high-rise constructions

Posted by Julian Owen | December 13, 2018 | Security & safety

ROCKWOOL Ltd, manufacturers of non-combustible insulation, has published analysis indicating that there are 340 high-rise (above 18m) and more than 1,338 high-risk buildings - such as schools, hospitals and care homes - which are still wrapped in combustible materials and remain unidentified, a year and a half after the Grenfell Tower fire. 

The analysis draws on data from Glenigan, which collates information on building projects from the public record. 

ROCKWOOL’s analysis has revealed that more than 885 high-rise and 1,486 high-risk building projects with rainscreen cladding, the type of system used at Grenfell, have been completed since 2013. Rainscreen cladding incorporates insulation attached to the wall of a building, with cladding placed over top. 

Estimates of market share for the rainscreen cladding market indicate that 90% of these projects incorporated the use of combustible materials. 

Whilst the Government has committed £400 million to replacing dangerous ACM cladding systems on public sector high-rise residential buildings, existing high-rise and all high-risk buildings fall outside the scope of the Government’s proposed ban on combustible materials in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. 

The ban - announced by the Government on Monday 1 October - only covers new high-rise homes and residential schools, hospital, care homes, and student accommodation buildings, and fails to address existing buildings of any kind. It also fails to include any schools, hospitals, care homes, hospices and sheltered housing below 18 metres in height; these include 966 existing university and school building projects, and 428 hospitals, care homes and sheltered housing projects.  

There are still large numbers of high-risk, as well as high-rise buildings, wrapped in materials that can fuel fires. Darryl Matthews, MD of ROCKWOOL UK

The data also shows that many high-rise and high-risk buildings clad with non-ACM combustible materials, such as high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, have not yet been identified under the Building Safety Programme, which has focused exclusively on screening for ACM cladding. 

ROCKWOOL’s analysis has shown another 1,065 projects on high-rise and high-risk buildings are currently planned to be built with rainscreen cladding systems. These include over 200 university and school building projects, and more than 150 hospital, care home and sheltered housing projects, most of which are under 18 metres and thus fall outside the Government’s proposed ban. 

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL UK, said: “The decision to ban combustible materials on new high-rise residential buildings was a welcome step forward for public safety. This data, however, shows that there are still large numbers of high-risk, as well as high-rise buildings, wrapped in materials that can fuel fires. The next step is a full audit of all buildings in the country to establish all the materials, not just ACM cladding, that they use on their external walls.

“We believe, in line with many experts and representative bodies, that the scope of the ban should be extended to all high-rise buildings, including existing buildings, and all high-risk buildings - such as hospitals, schools, and care homes - to ensure greater public safety in the event of a fire.”

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