Cladding system fire test failures prompt launch of Building Regs review

The government has announced an independent review of the Building Regulations and fire safety after cladding systems failed under the first full scale tests carried out after the Grenfell tragedy. The review will be chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of EEF the Manufacturers' Organisation and former chair of the Health and Safety Executive.

The first results from large scale fire tests ordered on cladding systems after Grenfell have been published, revealing that the first system tested – an aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with unmodified polyethylene filler and foam insulation – failed the test set out in current building regulations guidance.

The exact detail of the cladding system used on the Grenfell Tower, whether it was constructed as designed and how the Grenfell fire on 14 June came to spread quickly throughout the building, killing at least 80 people, have yet to be revealed. The tests on six configurations of cladding system commonly used on high rise buildings have been carried out supervised by government's Independent Expert Advisory Panel to help building owners and authorities make decisions on safety measures needed. The tests included all three common types of ACM panels and two different types of insulation.

According to the government announcement, immediate action is under way to make safe any buildings fitted with the cladding system that failed the fire tests. The full terms of the Hackitt review are expected to be set out later this summer, but only once the full terms of reference for the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry have been agreed. It is hoped that the review of the Building Regulations will present an interim report before the end of the year, before its full report in spring 2018.

The government announcement says the Hackitt Review will examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety; related compliance and enforcement issues; and relevant international regulation and experience. Hackitt will also consult the Buildings Regulations Advisory Committee, as well as the construction and housing industry, the fire sector, international experts, MPs and the public.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: "Since the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster, the government has been working to make sure people living in high rise buildings are safe. It’s clear we need to urgently look at building regulations and fire safety. This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements. Government is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and to ensure nothing like it can happen again."

The DCLG has also written to all local authorities and housing associations to outline funding arrangements. Building owners are expected to fund measures necessary to make their buildings fire safe out of their existing resources, but government says it will work with relevant bodies so that financial restrictions do not prevent them from making essential fire safety upgrades.