Calls for ban on combustible materials go a step further

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combustible materials, Construction Industry Council

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) is recommending the government extends the ban on the use of combustible materials to a wider range of buildings, including care homes, halls of residence and schools

The CIC recommendations are in response to a government consultation first published in January, which proposes changing the Building Regulations to ban the use of combustible materials in and on external walls and in specified attachments to the external walls on buildings such as hotels, hostels and boarding houses of 11m or above.

The CIC has highlighted a number of areas where it wishes to see more research and investigation to help determine the height at which combustible buildings should face an outright ban.

They are also urging the government to consider reducing the 11m height for buildings where vulnerable people sleep, including care homes, which represent a higher risk.

The government is proposing the outright ban on metal composite panels with a polyethylene core (including the type used on the Grenfell Tower), which the CIC also supports.

The government consultation seeks views on the ban of the use of combustible materials in and on external walls of buildings, including building types covered, height threshold, list of exemptions, attachments such as blinds, shutters and awnings.

Use of timber

The CLC’s response cautions against taking actions that would prohibit the use of timber as structural material, saying: “Use of timber. We are aware of significant concern from organisations with an interest in timber and sustainability, and how this may affect timber structural components.

“Timber structures are used successfully in buildings in other countries to heights well above 11m and the difference between fire risk in timber cladding and fire risk in timber structures should be fully understood before taking steps that may prohibit sustainable timber unintentionally.

“Overheating is already a problem – it is hard to quantify because cases are often being settled confidentially out of court. Further published, peer-reviewed evidence (from UCL) suggests a growing problem, leading to several thousand excess deaths per year by 2050.

“The connection of the issue of overheating to this consultation on combustible materials is that it does not seem to acknowledge that overheating is a problem, or that external shading is one of the measures to mitigate it.

“There needs to be a commitment to some specific research into the influence of external shading devices on the external spread of fire.”

Graham Watts, chief executive of the CIC, said: “Our members are strongly of the view that government proposals, while extremely welcome, do not go far enough and we need to do more to protect the safety of the most vulnerable in society.

“It is for these reasons that we are urging that the ban on the use of combustible materials be extended to far wider use classes.”

The CIC’s full response to the consultation can be found here.

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