UK: Panels ‘commonly used on buildings’ failed fire tests carried out in 2004

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 17): Panels “commonly used on buildings in the UK” failed fire tests carried out back in 2004, the BBC reported yesterday.

The broadcaster reported that “leaked test results suggest” that the authorities had evidence 13 years before the tragic Grenfell Tower fire about the risks of the cladding.

Five cladding systems were reportedly tested, including one with aluminium panels. The aluminium and plastic cladding at Grenfell Tower has been responsible for fire spread.

The report added that two of the cladding systems were constructed from high pressure laminate (HPL) boards made from wood or paper fibre. Both are heavily used on “modern” apartment blocks in the UK.

The tests in 2004 showed that all the five cladding systems failed against "proposed performance criteria".

Most of the tests were conducted without "fire breaks" or extra components which should be present to block the spread of flames.

“However, fire breaks were used in one high pressure laminate panel system, but it still failed,” the BBC stated in the report.

The UK’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) told broadcaster that the 2004 tests were "experimental... for a different purpose" than the testing carried out after the Grenfell fire.

It explained that the 2004 tests were meant to "to check the criteria for testing" rather than to assess the "intrinsic safety of building materials".

"We are taking action to improve building safety where successive governments have failed, through our Building Safety Bill, which marks the biggest improvements to building safety in 40 years, with more rights and protections for residents and a £5 billion investment to remove unsafe cladding,” said a MHCLG spokesperson.

"The new Building Safety Regulator will enforce a more stringent regulatory regime for buildings over 18m and oversee the safety and performance of all buildings, ensuring products are removed from the market if they do not meet regulation," the spokesperson added.

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