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Banning combustible materials in cladding systems in England

Dame Judith Hackitt’s review has identified serious failings with the construction industry and the regulatory system and has proposed a radical approach to address them. Reform of the scale envisaged by Dame Judith will take time and the Government, in response to public concern, considers that in addition to longer-term reform there is also a case for immediate action in relation to fire safety.

Objectives of the consultation

This consultation sought views on the Government's proposals to ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings in England. The consultation closed on 14 August 2018.

The Hackitt review was focused principally on high-rise residential buildings and concluded that a suitable trigger was buildings of 10 storeys or more. However, the Government considers that a ban on combustible material should apply to buildings 18m or over in height, which would align with current building regulations guidance. This will prevent having different requirements for buildings of 18m and for buildings of 10 storeys or more.

A ban would also remove the option for developers to use an assessment in lieu of a test (sometimes referred to as a “desktop study”) to demonstrate compliance. The Government has recently consulted on restricting or banning the use of assessments in lieu of a test. The results of that consultation will be taken into account in considering the results of this consultation.

The Government aims to make the change through legislation by amending the Building Regulations to include a specific ban. Failure to comply with the ban would be a breach of the Building Regulations 2010.

The Government will produce a detailed impact assessment based on the information received from this consultation to inform the final policy decision.

Supporting papers

To download the consultation document, please follow the link below.

CIBSE response

CIBSE supports the general approach of restricting use of combustible materials in cladding systems. Since there is a proposal in this consultation for some exemptions, the Institution understands that the use of combustible materials in cladding is being significantly restricted, not banned. 

Such a further restrictions should be subject to a further review as findings emerge from the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire, responses to the Independent Review and as testing regimes develop over time. The industry is also putting in place measures to improve competency of professionals and tradespeople working on higher-risk buildings. In time, a more competent construction workforce could also merit a change to this proposed prescriptive approach, which may well be anomalous to a more performance-based approach to fire and life safety.

As noted in the consultation paper, a ban can only be delivered by legislation, otherwise it is guidance. Requirement B4 of the Building Regulations already limits the materials that may be used on the external face of a building. However, as the government has acknowledged, over 450 buildings are clad in material that is not permitted, i.e. banned, already. That has occurred because of significant differences of interpretation between professionals over the guidance that is supposed to support the application of requirement B4 but has in practice confused. Just changing the scope of what is banned alone will not solve the problems – as Dame Judith Hackitt finds in her report, there is a need for much more wide ranging change in the sector for the proposed ban to be effective, and there needs to be absolute clarity over what is “banned” in future.

To read the full CIBSE response, please follow the link below.

The CIBSE Society of Façade Engineering (SFE) submitted a seperate response to this consultation. To view their response, please follow the link below.

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