Is this BISF House Cladding similar to the Grenfell Tower Fire Cladding?

The devastating Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 was, according to reports, made all the worse by the flammability of the insulated rainscreen panels that were affixed to the outside of the building which caused the fire to spread at astonishing speed and as a result 80 lives were tragically lost in the inferno.

This system used in Worcester is not unlike the the cladding that was applied to Grenfell Tower, however at this stage it is impossible to identify the composition of  the panels used just by visual inspection.

In 2012, Worcester Community Housing undertook  a renovation project to a number of BISF Houses in Mersey Road and Calder Road Worcester, where rainscreen cladding was used to insulate the upper storeys of the properties.

Standard plastic soffit boards contain no insulation and as such, will do very little toward improving the thermal properties of a home but rainscreen on the other hand is totally different as it is a facade type of panel system that can be insulated from behind and mechanically fixed to an existing building, similar to principle to the cladding used on the Grenfell Tower.

Following the devastating Grenfell Tower Fire, the government subsequently launched a review of all rainscreen clad high rise tower blocks over 18 metres high around the country, in an effort to identify potential flammable cladding in order to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future. 13 buildings were identified during this review.

Safety tests carried out on variations of the aluminium cladding blamed for spreading the fire so rapidly has shown that in general the designs comply with current building regulations.  Cladding system constructed from aluminium panels with a fire-resistant polyethylene filler and mineral wool insulation, were deemed compliant when installed and maintained correctly.

However not all cladding systems passed the tests with an expert panel the experts noting that materials can vary between manufacturers and can have different calorific values. The way materials have been fitted and maintained can also affect the safety of the cladding system.

The first system to fail in the tests, was a mock-up of the cladding used to renovate Grenfell Tower and blamed for the spread of fire. The design, which coupled aluminium panels with a combustible polyethylene plastic core and PIR plastic foam insulation, was described by many as an absolute failure.

This system used in the Worcester refurbishments is also a panel system but at the time of writing it cannot be ascertained if this cladding has been tested due to being a low rise dwelling.

We are not suggesting that this cladding is the same as that fitted to Grenfell Tower, nor are we suggesting that it is indeed combustible or made from the same materials installed at Grenfell but it may be wise for the occupants of the homes to approach WCH and ask for a safety inspection of the product used to clad their homes as it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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