A year after Grenfell the task of safeguarding tower block residents remains one of our greatest urban challenges. UK specifiers and building control officers who can no longer turn to desk top studies for reassurance on safety performance are now looking to the most accredited test houses to put in place live and strictly monitored fire tests. In addition, the September Guidance Circular to Heads of Local Authority Building Control Departments and Approved Inspectors requires responsible officers must look for clear evidence to confirm that “satisfactory evidence has been submitted that the requirements of paragraph B4 of Schedule 1 are being met”. These amendments to the 2010 Building Regulations relating to 18 metre plus buildings require cladding to undergo a full scale test.
The BRE’s fresh round of tests on Aluminium Cladding systems highlights the benefits of using a product with zero spread of flame characteristics. The innate fire safety qualities of aluminium have long been recognised and made it the go-to material in the provision of an efficient and attractive building envelope. But as tragically revealed at Grenfell, laminating it to petrochemical based structural substrates can result in disaster.
In a newly published report, BRE testing has shown that aluminium cladding, in this instance a 3mm aluminium cassette system from Fusion Facades, combined with intumescent fire stops around openings and between floors will actively provide fire protection to the building fabric and the residents within by effectively preventing the spread of a fire.
Specifiers are directed to Report Number P110509-1001 Issue 1 BRE Global Classification Report. 18th June 2018. Fire performance test in accordance with BR 135:2013 Annex B Test method BS 8414-2:2015 + A1:2017
The report shows in detail the results of a fire test which featured 136mm thick MetSIP panels, 60mm thick Rockwool insulation, an 80mm cavity and 3mm Fusion Facades aluminium cassette panels.
The test measured three specified critical parameters;
- External fire spread
- Internal fire spread
- System burn through
In all instances the system proved to be compliant. The Fusion Facades aluminium cassettes remained firmly attached to the fixing system. With the exception of panels immediately above the combustion crib which were partially consumed, all the remaining panels suffered only discolouration of the coating. Critically there was no evidence of surface spread of flame.
Mike McKee of Fusion Facades reports that the company will stand ready to meet with Building Control Officers, specifiers and cladding contractors to enlarge on the details of the test and the reported results.
“Our industry has a duty to assist local authorities, housing associations and landlords on replacement products and new build projects at this time of heightened concern surrounding aluminium cladding. Industry professionals and tenant associations alike will find much to reassure them in the rigor and scope of the BRE test. The results have unequivocally confirmed our long held belief that well designed aluminium cladding systems present no danger and can, in effect add to the safety of the structure in the event of a fire”