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Experts call for flammable cladding ban after Grenfell

Grenfell Tower

Fire safety experts have called for a ban on flammable cladding on high rise buildings as concerns are raised over the direction of the post-Grenfell Hackitt Review into building regulations.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) fire safety expert advisory group said key changes to ban flammable cladding, fit sprinkler systems and ensure there is a second escape exit have been overlooked in the review led by Dame Judith Hackitt. 

It comes in the same week that a damning BRE Global report found that the deaths of 71 people in the disaster could have been avoided if the west London tower block had not been refurbished. 

The advisory group recommended that only non-combustible materials are used on buildings taller than 18m, all multiple occupancy buildings more than 11m high should have more than one means of escape, that residential buildings above 18m have sprinklers retro-fitted and that sprinklers are installed in all new high rise homes.

RIBA expert advisory group on fire safety chairwoman Jane Duncan said: “The RIBA has engaged closely with Dame Judith and her review and we welcome many of the suggestions made in her interim report to strengthen the building control system.

“However, we fear that the current set of proposals under consideration overlook simple but critical changes that would provide clarity for professionals and most importantly, would help protect the public.

“Sprinklers, a second means of escape and a ban on flammable cladding for high rise residential buildings are common-sense recommendations, and a basic requirement in many other countries.

“We have written to the Secretary of State making clear that there must be a thorough re-writing of the building regulations and guidance on all aspects of fire safety, to avoid continuation of the regulatory failings that lead to the Grenfell Tower fire.”

A report by the London Assembly Planning Committee, published last month, also called for sprinkler retro-fitting in high rise residential buildings. Grenfell Tower was not fitted with sprinklers during its 2016 refurbishment. 

Hackitt’s interim report, which was published in December last year, found that the regulatory systems for designing, constructing and managing high rise buildings are “not fit for purpose”. 

The RIBA advisory group wrote to Hackitt and communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid to make the recommendations. The final report will be published this spring.

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