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A ban on the use of combustible materials
Following the Grenfell fire and the review of building and fire safety regulations, the regulations were amended. In December of 2018, the Ministry of Housing introduced new guidance. And in April 2019, following further amendments, an updated Document B came into force. The amended regulations now ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls and specified attachments (such as balconies) of new buildings of 18m or more in height — or where work is carried out on existing buildings of 18m or higher. These restrictions apply to residential blocks of flats, care homes, sheltered housing, student accommodation, hospitals and boarding school dormitories.
Implications for existing buildings of all heights
In July, the government further clarified its position by advising building control officers to also check the cladding on buildings under 18m. And, where existing buildings of any height have balconies, it is incumbent on the building owner to understand what materials have been used and to assess and manage the associated risk of external fire spread. They urge building owners to remove combustible materials from balconies if they are found, in order to comply with Requirement B4 of the Building Regulations. If building owners are in doubt they are asked to seek professional advice from an appropriately qualified professional.
(Image by Guido van Nispen)
What’s happened since?
On Friday 15th November 2019 a fire ripped through a student accommodation block in Bolton, apparently spreading via its external wall. Miraculously there were no fatalities, but it has raised concerns about the scope of the new ban on combustible materials. The reason concerns have been raised is because the cladding used on the building in Bolton was of a different type to that seen at Grenfell. The cladding at Grenfell was Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), whereas in Bolton is was High-Pressure Laminate (HPL). The Bolton building was also below 18m in height, putting it outside the scope of the new ban on combustibles. This recent fire has left many questions unanswered, with fire safety bodies and some MPs pushing for a further review of building regulations as they relate to fire safety.
In early 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick outlined plans to reduce the 18m threshold further, telling the House of Commons: “We banned the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings in December 2018…and today [January 20] I am announcing a consultation on the ban, again going significantly further, including by lowering the 18-metre height threshold to at most 11 metres.”
He went on argue that building safety needs to be proportionate to the building, drawing on the Bolton fire which took place in a building standing 17.6-8 meters high: just a few centimetres from the 18m threshold.
IGNO non-combustible products
To demonstrate our commitment to supporting our customers in construction and architecture, we are launching IGNO. IGNO is a mark of assurance on all Ryno non-combustible products for the construction sector. It signifies non-combustible innovation that goes beyond compliance, to build in protection. Where you see the IGNO mark, you can be completely assured that these Ryno products comply with or even exceed building regulations.
The IGNO product family — designed for life.