Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017, cladding has become the focus of significant public and media scrutiny, proven as it was to be responsible for the extreme damage caused by the fire.
Today, cladding is under close examination and unless they pass a formal EWS1 (External Wall Fire Review) assessment, conducted by a trained professional, even flats with safe cladding are essentially worthless on the open market. This means lots of owners are now stuck in limbo.
What is cladding?
Cladding is used to waterproof the external walls of a building and is used widely on highrise flats around the world. Cladding is a great help when it comes to insulating property, so it’s commonly used as an affordable way of improving older buildings with poor environmental certification.
On the surface level, cladding is widely used for its flexible aesthetic attributes, enabling architects to beautify buildings without breaking the bank.
Are all types of cladding dangerous?
No, not all cladding is dangerous. In fact, the list of dangerous cladding types is fairly small. Unfortunately, some of the UK’s most common cladding types do appear on the list.
New guidelines from RICS make it clear what owners with dangerous cladding should do.
- Aluminium Composite Material (ACM)
ACM was used on Grenfell Tower. It is used largely for its waterproof qualities and consists of “two skins of aluminium bonded to either side of a lightweight core of materials such as polyethylene (PE), polyurethane (PUR), profiled metal or a mineral core”.
ACM is used widely in the UK because it can be used very precisely (it’s easy to keep flat and thus easy to apply neatly), is lightweight, and comes in a wide variety of colours and finishes.
Sadly, during fires the panels delaminate which exposes the core materials which are highly combustible.
- High-Pressure Laminate (HPL)
HPL cladding is manufactured by “layering sheets of wood or paper fibre with a resin and bonding them under heat and pressure”.
While it can be unsafe on its own, it has been found that the addition of additional fire retardant chemicals can kill this risk.
- Metal Composite Materials (MCM)
MCM cladding has been flagged by the UK government following the Grenfell tragedy. It uses zinc, copper, and steel.