More than 300 properties at Glasgow Harbour have been found to be covered with Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) which was found to have caused the devastating blaze at Grenfell Tower in June 2017.
What is ACM cladding?
ACM cladding consists of two skins of aluminium bonded to either side of a lightweight core of materials such as polyethylene, polyurethane, pro-filled metal or a mineral core.
The cladding, Reynobond ACM panels, became notorious following the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 71 lives. The cladding with a polyethylene core was thought to have aided the rapid spread of the fire, which was started by a Hotpoint fridge freezer on the fourth floor.
What happened after the Grenfell Tower disaster?
In the wake of the blaze, it was revealed that cost-cutting measures resulted in the cheaper but more flammable cladding to be installed to the exterior of the tower in order to save £293,000 in the £9.2m refurbishment. It was also found that the London Fire Brigade warned councils about the dangers of the external cladding.
This makes me wonder: (i) why was nothing done about it and, (ii) what can be done about it now?
Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, a series of “forensic checks” were carried out on high rise properties. Some schools and hospitals, such as the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, were found to have ACM cladding and now arrangements have been made to have them removed. The cladding was also found on more than 300 properties at Glasgow Harbour and it is thought that the affected householders could be forced to pay around £30,000 each. This has caused outrage amongst home owners who, rightly so, do not think they should pay for this.
The construction firm, Taylor Wimpey, released the following statement on the matter: “We recognise that the situation at Glasgow Harbour is a cause for concern for both owners and residents. While we do not have any ownership or legal interest in the development, we are committed to working with all the parties involved in finding a solution.”
What are the building regulations?
Since May 2005, the Scottish building regulations relating to the fire safety of cladding systems was strengthened to ensure that the cladding on high rise domestic buildings met the most stringent fire test at the time. The cladding on such properties also had to be non-combustible.
When Glasgow Harbour was designed 2001, the regulations stated that the cladding had to meet Class 0, which would satisfy the most onerous flame.
Taylor Wimpey insists that Glasgow Harbour was designed and built in accordance with the regulations at the time, and that all the necessary planning consents and approvals were in place.
If that is the case, how was it found that the ACM cladding fitted had “no flame retardant properties”?
Glasgow City Glasgow stated that main reason for this was due to the changes that were introduced after 2001 in how fire retardant properties were tested. Although that could be a factor, to me, this reveals the contradictory nature of the current building regulations.
People are the priority and it seems as though some have lost sight of that. Hopefully when Dame Judith Hackitt publishes her full review of the building regulations in May we will see changes that will avoid another Grenfell Tower disaster.
Blog by Charlotte McTavish