For the majority of the materials provided for cladding in the western world today, they are all safe from a structural standpoint. A clear issue that has been highlighted over the years is how combustible the material is.
Prior to the Grenfell tragedy of June 2017, there were arguments amongst experts regarding the interpretation of the government’s advice on cladding regulations.
The wording of the regulations before 2017 was not clear, and this led to confusion for the general public. This is a phrase that was used in the regulations at the time, “any insulation product or filler material should be of limited combustibility.” The phrase “limited combustibility” really displays how grey the area was and how much that could be argued in a court of law.
Here are some changes to the law post-Grenfell:
Ban on all combustible cladding above 18 metres high
This ban applies to new residential buildings, hospitals, schools, care homes and student accommodations.
The only materials approved for external walls will be A1 and A2 class materials such as metal, glass, stone or plasterboard
The ban does not include cladding on existing buildings
The original use of cladding as a building material was to provide an additional layer of installation that would be particularly beneficial for buildings with substandard environmental certification. As time has progressed, there has been a greater focus on aesthetics and how the cladding can complement a building’s overall appearance.
What cladding materials are more dangerous than others?
The material that was used for the Grenfell tower was ACM. ACM stands for Aluminium composite material and is now notorious for its rate of combustibility. Other materials, such as high-pressure laminate or HPL, have also been verified as unsafe.
As of this year (2022), there has also been a complete ban on MCM PE cladding panels (metal composite panels with unmodified polyethylene.)
The previous ban on MCM PE cladding only applied to buildings higher than 11 metres. These changes will support fire safety measures and will be incorporated into any new high-rise homes and residential dwellings.
Regulations for residential dwellings?
It is both the homeowner’s and contractor’s responsibility to ensure that they are compliant with current build regulations. Here is the link for the fire safety section amongst residential building regulations https://www.planningportal.co.uk/applications/building-control-applications/building-control/approved-documents/part-b-fire-safety/approved-document-b-volume-1-dwellings . This document is from 2018, so if you are referring to this for the project, ensure to check that it is still valid.