Statement on DLUHC’s updates to the fire safety regulations and guidance announced on the eve of the Platinum Jubilee
On the cusp of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend, the Government announced tougher new guidance for external wall materials on new residential buildings between 11m and 18m in height, together with the complete banning of Metal Composite Material (MCM) panels with unmodified polyethylene core on all new buildings.
The Government also extended the scope of their existing ban on the use of combustible materials in and on the external walls of residential and institutional buildings of 18m and over in England – to include all new hotels, hostels and boarding houses of this height. Whilst overdue, these are all welcome announcements - and firmly supported by MIMA - to edge our way to safer buildings in England.
However, this announcement does not go nearly far enough. Along with many others including fire safety experts, MIMA has long-advocated for a complete ban on combustible façade materials for all buildings of 11m+ and all high-risk buildings, such as schools, hospitals and care homes, regardless of height. Further, the fire safety test that provides a route to compliance for combustible façade materials to be used on buildings - BS 8414 (and the associated BR135 classification criteria) – has been widely condemned. Yet under this announcement it continues to be permitted for buildings not within the scope of the ban, including flats between 11m and 18m in height. It is widely supported that this testing and assessment route cannot be relied upon to either assure or inform the fire safety of real-life buildings.
Sarah Kostense-Winterton, Executive Director comments; “MIMA does not believe this shuffle forward makes the large, confident strides needed to deliver safer buildings across England. As documented in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, BS 8414 and BR135 are clearly unfit for use as a route to compliance for any tall and high-risk buildings – including buildings that we live in, hospitals that we recuperate in and schools that we learn in.
The Government should be imposing the strictest limitations - not a halfway house - but are falling far behind our neighbours in Scotland who have embraced a ban on the use of combustible cladding and insulation on residential and other high-risk buildings of 11m and above. Housing Secretary, Michael Gove and his team at DLUHC must mirror this over the border in England without further delay.”