William Eichler 18 January 2019

Grenfell cladding over 50 times more flammable than safer alternative

The cladding used on Grenfell Tower was 55 times more flammable than the least combustible materials available, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire have called for tighter regulations around flammable and toxic building products after an investigation into the cladding and insulation used on Grenfell Tower.

They found that the polyethylene-filled aluminium composite material (ACM) panels used on the tower were 55 times more flammable than the least flammable panels tested.

Published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, the research also learnt that smoke released when burning polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation - the insulation used on Grenfell - was 15 times more toxic than current fire-safe insulation products.

The findings also highlight the dangers with High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) materials - a popular alternative to the cladding used on Grenfell Tower, and the material which contributed to the death of six people during the 2009 Lakanal House fire.

Test results revealed that when set alight, it had 25 times greater heat release rate, and released 115 times more heat compared to the least flammable panel products available.

‘Our research demonstrates the need for tighter regulations around flammable and toxic building products, especially when used on towers, or buildings with vulnerable occupants, as this could put lives at serious risk,’ said Richard Hull, author of the study and professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire.

‘The tests that we have carried out provide crucial evidence around the large differences in the fire safety of construction products used on UK buildings, and have clear implications for regulators to ensure the fire safety of occupants living in these buildings.

‘Even though the government has recently banned combustible materials from some high-rise buildings in England, regulators need to consider the fire safety of all buildings with combustible façades.’

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