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Updated Guidance on Cladding – what it means for building owners and operators

The government has issued newly updated guidance on the use of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding following the Grenfell disaster, which residential building owners should review as a matter of urgency.

The Grenfell Public Enquiry chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick continues to hear evidence from residents, fire fighters and professionals on the design, construction, modification and management of the property in the weeks leading up to and during the fire. 

Late last week, the Government issued further guidance on ACM cladding for residential buildings over 18m in height and other complex buildings.

It reiterates the need for building owners to fully understand what cladding materials have been used and if ACMs are in place. There needs to be sufficient assurance that the systems as a whole operate effectively in the event of a fire. This is the case even if there is significant distance between ACM panels, there is a single isolated strip of ACM, or it is located on top or ground floors only, according to the Government’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel. These experts also clearly state that it is “highly unlikely that this assurance can be provided via a desktop assessment or fire engineered solution.”

The only circumstance where ACM may be left on a building is where all the materials used in the external wall system are of at least limited combustibility, or the installed system has successfully obtained a BR135 classification via a large scale BS8414 test, and has been installed appropriately, according to the panel.

Building owners should be aware that leaving ACM in place may also impact factors including: insurance premiums, valuations and warranties. In addition, they should consider sharing any professional advice they receive with the occupants, particularly where they intend to leave the ACM in place on building.

Building owners and operators who have large, complex, cladded buildings, whether they are residential or not are advised to ensure that they have at least considered the extent of ACMs. It’s also recommended that fire strategies, fire management plans and arrangements (including any inspection and maintenance regimes) and on-going emergency plans are reviewed. Building owners must ensure that they are fully aware of the extent of any cladding systems and the effects on the fire safety systems and occupants — and that installed life and fire safety systems are fully operational and effective.

A useful checklist for building owners, managers and operators should include the following:

- Review your fire management plan & fire strategy
- Assess your cladding systems to determine if you have ACMs
- Review your fire risk assessment, considering the type of assessment required
- Examine your evacuation procedures to ensure these are up to date
- Develop a fire safety management programme in accordance with PASS 7

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