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ACM System Passes UK Fire Safety Tests

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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The fourth in a line of six expanded tests to evaluate the fire safety of cladding systems in the United Kingdom has found an aluminum composite panel system that complies with safety codes, according to the Building Research Establishment.

ChiralJon, CC-SA-BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The fourth in a line of six expanded tests to evaluate the fire safety of cladding systems in the United Kingdom has found an aluminum composite panel system that complies with safety codes, according to the Building Research Establishment.

The most recent round of tests shows that an aluminum composite material used with a fire-resistant polyethylene filler and stone wool back insulation passes fire safety tests for use in high-rise buildings. This is the only system to be tested so far that complies with building regulations.

Tests

Tests on cladding systems used in U.K. high-rise buildings began shortly after June 14’s Grenfell Tower fire, which killed approximately 80 people. The building’s cladding system was blamed for the wide and rapid spread of the fire up the structure’s facade.

An investigation immediately took place on the polyethylene core of those panels, in which 200 buildings with the same core failed fire safety tests.

After those hundreds of failures, however, officials decided to expand the tests to six types of ACM systems, in accordance with British Standard 8414.

“This involves building a 9-meter-tall demonstration wall with a complete cladding system­—including panels and insulation­—fixed to it, and then subjecting it to a fire that replicates a severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window and whether it then spread up the outside wall,” the Department for Communities and Local Government said in a statement at that time.

Natalie Oxford, CC-SA-BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tests on the U.K.’s cladding systems used in high-rise buildings began shortly after June 14’s Grenfell Tower fire, which killed approximately 80 people. The building’s cladding system was blamed for the wide and rapid spread of the fire up the structure’s facade.

The systems incorporated the three common types of aluminum composite material panels, with core filler materials of unmodified polyethylene, fire-retardant polyethylene and non-combustible mineral. The insulation materials used in the testing will be rigid polyisocyanurate foam or non-combustible mineral wool.

Findings So Far

Last week’s findings represent the fourth combination of systems. So far, results have shown:

  • Failed: ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler with PIR foam insulation;
  • Failed: ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler with mineral wool insulation;
  • Failed: ACM with fire-retarded polyethylene filler with PIR foam insulation;
  • Passed: ACM with fire-retarded polyethylene filler with mineral wool insulation;
  • Not Yet Tested: ACM with a limited combustibility filler with PIR foam insulation; and
  • Not Yet Tested: ACM with a limited combustibility filler with mineral wool insulation.

There are 13 buildings over 18 meters (59 feet) in England that use that specific system, and the government’s expert panel advised that this system could “therefore offer a possible solution for some buildings with other cladding systems which have been identified as a hazard.”

However, the panel stopped short of making that blanket recommendation and noted in a statement, “cladding and insulation 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.”

   

Tagged categories: Aluminum; Building codes; Cladding; Fatalities; Fire; Safety

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