Grenfell aftermath new building safety Government guidance

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
12th February 2020

Following the devastating aftermath of Grenfell Tower back in June 2017, where 72 people died, attention was largely focused on the materials in the building’s cladding; ACM cladding. A programme was then implemented to remove this cladding from high-rise buildings across the UK. It has been reported that over 300 buildings still have this type of cladding in situ.

Attention then turned to other materials, and concerns were raised regarding the safety of non-ACM systems. 

A ban on combustible cladding came into force on 13 January for Wales. This ban applies to all new buildings and existing buildings under refurbishment, from blocks of flats to care homes and hospitals over 18m high. This ban comes 13 months after a similar ban was introduced by the UK Government for all buildings over 18m.

The UK government released Advice Note 14 in December 2018 to provide clarity to building owners in understanding non-aluminium composite material cladding systems and what steps to take. However, this seems to have only caused further confusion as it largely contradicts Building Regulations. Advice Note 14 was one of 22, all of which have now been compiled into one guidance document ‘Building Safety advice for building owners, including fire doors’ release in January 2020.

Surveyors and mortgage lenders will now value a property at £0 (or well below the asking price) if a certificate cannot be provided to demonstrate that it complies with the guidance. This, in turn, has resulted in lenders refusing to release mortgages.

The guidance document requires building owners to demonstrate that the materials used are of limited combustibility or be of a system that has achieved the Building Research Establishment’s BR 135 classification. To achieve this classification, systems will need to go through a BS 8414 test, something that very few materials being used have gone through. This information may be detailed in installation paperwork or will require further inspection and testing. 

Due to the enormous demand for testing, there is now a limited resource of competent professionals who can carry out the building inspection, resulting in lengthy delays. Some of the inspections have resulted in occupants having to be re-located temporarily whilst the intrusive survey is carried out.

Additionally, once combustible cladding materials have been identified on a high-rise building, the evacuation policy will, in most cases, become a simultaneous evacuation (from a stay-put policy). This may results in amendments or upgrades to the fire alarm system and 24/7 fire patrol. All of which are additional costs to the building owners.