The Government has confirmed it will take forward the ban on the use of combustible materials (which includes combustible cladding panels and combustible insulation) on external walls of high-rise residential buildings, as well as hospitals, care homes and student accommodation above 18 metres in height.   

This follows on from the Hackitt Review on fire safety of high-rise and multi-occupancy buildings (published 17 May 2018), which itself was commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In its response paper to the Hackitt Review, the Government announced its aims to ensure people living in high-rise buildings are safe, committing to:

  • Reviewing the suite of existing Building Regulations documents and revising and restructuring the documents to enhance their usability. This includes an updated version of Approved Document B which is intended to be released before the end of 2018; and
  • Launching a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings following the Hackitt Review’s recommendation.

Change

It is anticipated that the revised Building Regulations will incorporate this ban of combustible materials, limiting materials available to products achieving a Class A1 or A2 European classification rating. It should be noted that Class A2 materials include plasterboard which has limited combustibility. The changes to Building Regulations are expected to come into effect around late autumn.

The proposals open for consultation are that buildings over 18m high should not include combustible materials in the complete wall assembly, including the inner leaf, insulation and the façade.

Impact on the Industry

An outright ban is welcomed to ensure resident safety and given the uncertainty surrounding whether or not, or even how, these materials can be used safely and in accordance with Regulations, the industry will welcome some certainty and we suspect a number of our clients who have considered the issues at hand over the last year may want to engage with the consultation.

Although it is anticipated that the ban will not apply retrospectively, work is being carried out to existing buildings that are considered dangerous due to aluminium composite cladding. Where these works are subject to building control requirements, any new Building Regulations coming into force will apply to those remedial works.

However, even where a building clad in such materials is not caught by a change in the Building Regulations along the lines proposed, landlords will still face difficult questions as to how to tackle residential buildings that are composed of materials that, if they were built later, would be considered unsafe. Unfortunately, these issues remain against a backdrop of ever-increasing costs due to the ever-increasing demand in the market.

What can you do?

As the ban will be reflected in the Building Regulations, it is still possible for you to have your say on the ban and contribute to the consultation which closes on 11 October 2018 at 11.45pm. The consultation can be accessed here. We will keep you updated as developments are released over the coming months.

For more information

If you have concerns about fire safety risks or have any other questions in relation to this e-briefing, please do not hesitate to contact Kieran Binnie or Daniel Lawlor.

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