As reported in a previous bulletin,
ARCH will ensure that members are kept up-to-date on developments
in fire safety following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower. We will
continue to support members in their response to this disaster and
any arising actions.
Sajid Javid, The Secretary of State for Communities and Local
Government, gave an update on the situation to Parliament on 3
He reported on precautions that should be taken now to avoid
another tragedy saying that the Building Research Establishment
(BRE) is continuing to test the combustibility of cladding from
councils and housing associations, as well as private landlords.
The focus to date has been on testing buildings clad with Aluminium
Composite Material (ACM). At 3 July 2017, 181 samples out of 181
tested had failed the BRE's combustibility test.
In making his statement to the House of Commons, the
Secretary of State, said:
"It's obviously disturbing that there are such a large
number of buildings with combustible cladding, and the priority now
is to make those buildings safe.
"Where appropriate mitigating measures cannot be implemented
quickly landlords must provide alternative accommodation while the
remedial work is carried out, and that is exactly what happened in
the 4 tower blocks in Camden.
"Our primary concern has been buildings over 18 metres, or 6
storeys, where people stay at night.
"Hospitals and schools are also being assessed.
"Mr. Speaker, we ourselves have asked questions about the
testing regime after discovering the 100% failure rate so
"Last week I asked for the testing regime to be
"This was carried out by the Research Institutes of Sweden,
and they have confirmed they believe the process to be
Read the full explanatory briefing note on the testing
"As the note explains, every failed test means the panels
are unlikely to be compliant with the limited combustibility
requirement of the building regulations guidance.
This has been confirmed by legal advice and the advice of
the independent expert panel that was established last
For use of the panels to be safe landlords need to be
confident that the whole wall system has been tested and shown to
Read the full text of the Secretary of State's
update to Parliament.
The Expert Advisory Panel established to provide
independent advice to the Secretary of State on any immediate
measures that may need to be put in place to make buildings safe
for residents has also met for the first time.
The Panel will:
- Focus on providing advice relating to fire and building safety,
and how to ensure the public are safe in high rise buildings.
- Consider whether there are any immediate additional actions
that should be taken to ensure the safety of existing high rise
- Consider whether there are any changes or clarifications
required to existing regulations, and provide advice on possible
changes, including making recommendations on the use of specific
- Consider whether the current processes for checking building
safety are fit for purpose, and whether any changes are
The Expert Advisory Panel has said:
"The tests that are currently being conducted are a
screening test to identify which Aluminium Composite Material (ACM)
panels are of concern. It tests the filler - the core of the panel
- to check if it is of limited combustibility (category 1) or not
(category 2 or 3). This is in line with the requirement of the
Building Regulations guidance. The filler is one element of the
overall cladding system.
"If the panel core fails the test we would expect the
landlord to take the recommended interim fire safety measures
issued on 22 June 2017.
"The Panel will engage with experts across the country to
consider whether these panels can be used safely as part of a wider
building external wall system, and therefore could remain on a
building under certain approved circumstances. If, in the meantime,
the responsible person for the building chooses to take down and
replace cladding, care should be taken to consider the impact that
removal may have on the other wall elements, especially insulation,
and therefore on the overall fire integrity of the building as well
as other Building Regulation requirements. The advice of a
competent professional who specialises in the fire performance of
cladding assemblies should be sought to assist in these
On 6 July, the Expert Advisory Panel recommended further tests
on cladding and insulation to establish how different types of ACM
panels in combination with different types of insulation behave in
The results of these tests will help landlords make decisions on
any further measures that may need to be put in place to make their
buildings safe following the Grenfell Tower fire. These tests will
be undertaken by the BRE and will not require any new samples from
The further tests - which will look at three different types of
ACM cladding combined with different types of insulation - will be
in accordance with British Standard 8414 in line with the panel's
advice. This involves building a nine metre tall demonstration wall
with a complete cladding system - including panels and insulation -
fixed to it, and then subjecting it to a fire that replicates a
severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window and whether it then
spread up the outside wall.
In addition, the Expert Advisory Panel recommended issuing
further practical advice on immediate steps landlords can take to
identify their wall materials including insulation. This will be
The government has now commissioned the BRE to undertake these
tests as a matter of urgency. The results will be made public.
Landlords will be expected to take their own professional advice on
what is required for their buildings in the usual way.
Read further details of this latest
announcement by the Expert Advisory Panel.
Although attention is currently focused on the cladding used on
Grenfell Tower and other residential and commercial tower blocks,
the causes of the fire at Grenfell Tower and why it spread have not
yet been established. As the causes become clearer ARCH will be
keen to understand from members the precise implications for stock
retained councils, whether capital works, improved management or
the need to rehouse vulnerable residents will be needed and the
cost implications as we pursue a discussion with the new government
on housing investment and the future of rents policy.
To this end, ARCH Policy Adviser, Matthew Warburton, has
written to all
ARCH member councils asking them to share information
and we would urge any members that have not responded to do so