Grenfell Tower block fire: Statement from the Fire Protection Association
A statement from the Fire Protection Association in response to the Grenfell Tower block fire.
Statement on the Grenfell Tower block fire in Latimer Road from the Fire Protection Association (FPA), the UK’s National Fire Safety Organisation which administers the annual insurers’ research scheme promoting safety and resilience in commercial buildings.
Dr Jim Glockling, Technical Director at the FPA, said:
“This is a devastating fire. As details emerge we understand there was a refurbishment including exterior cladding and a communal heating system.
“In 2014/2015, following broader insurance industry concerns around the potential for external fire spread in buildings incorporating External Thermal Insulated Cladding Systems (ETICS), we conducted a project at the FPA’s Fire Test Laboratory, funded by a group of UK insurers.
“ETICS systems seek to improve the thermal performance of a building and is an important tool for the updating of the UK’s aging building stock. The bulk of the material in ETIC systems is the insulation itself.
"The conclusions of this study were as follows:
‘This ad-hoc test programme has demonstrated that when the polystyrene insulation is encapsulated entirely by the wall, render, and edge detail, the extent of damage from the fire can be limited to a ‘melt-out’ area (with limited burning from single point air inlet / smoke egress route) coherent with the fire plume size.
'However, where inbuilt features are encountered within this zone that breach the ETIC system, such as vents or pipes a chimney effect may quickly develop that will cause the very rapid consumption of the insulation and expansion of the damage area. If these inbuilt features are prevalent in the building, such as bathroom vents located one above another on multi-storey apartment blocks then there is scope for ground to roof fire spread by external means with ingress at each encountered aperture.’
“Without knowledge of the specific materials used we cannot say at this early stage if any of the conclusions above are relevant to this tragic incident, but the increasing use of combustible materials in construction needs to be addressed if further events are to be avoided.
“It is the Fire Protection Association’s view that Building Regulations and its Guidance in Approved Document B have not included an appropriate impact analysis of the safety and resilience consequences introduced by the adoption of materials and methods with poor fire performance capability. There is a need for the Building Regulations and its Guidance to consider both the external envelope of the building and its resilience to fire ingress.
"Many insulating materials may be used in ETIC systems and their fire performance characteristics can range from being non-combustible, to very flammable – it is a matter of choice, and clearly some choices are better than others.”