Grenfell cladding and insulation study revealed
THE ‘FIRST in-depth’ study of the cladding and insulation used on the tower found that cladding panels were ’55 times more flammable’ than the least flammable options available.
PBC Today reported on the study by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), which uncovered ‘significant differences’ in terms of both flammability and smoke toxicity between the products used on Grenfell Tower and the ‘least combustible products available’. In particular, the polyethylene filled aluminium composite material (ACM) panels used were said to have been ’55 times more flammable’ than the least flammable panels tested in the study.
In turn, the smoke released when polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation was burned was ’15 times more toxic’ than other ‘fire-safe’ insulation products, with only one kilogramme of burning PIR insulation sufficient to fill a room 50m3 in size ‘with an incapacitating and ultimately lethal mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas’.
The research also found that the combination of ACM cladding and PIR insulation ‘resulted in the highest flammability and smoke toxicity of products currently available’, and when used together the ACM ‘forced rapid ignition of the toxic foam’. The dangers of high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, a ‘popular alternative’ to ACM, was also highlighted, with this having ‘contributed’ to the deaths at Lakanal House in the fire in 2009.
In the study, tests found that HPL had a 25 times greater heat release rate and released 115 times more heat compared to the ‘least flammable’ panels available. UCLan stated that the research demonstrated ‘the need for tighter regulations around flammable and toxic building products’, especially when used on high rise towers or buildings ‘with vulnerable occupants’, because this could ‘put lives at serious risk’.
Richard Hull, author of the study and professor of chemistry and fire science at UCLan, stated: ‘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.
‘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.’
The research can be found here. UCLan also collaborated with the Fire Protection Association in 2018 on a toxicity study in relation to cladding, which you can view here.