Government edits building regulations over cladding
IT HAS been reported that the government has edited a paragraph in building regulations guidance to ‘support its own argument about the legality of Grenfell-style cladding’.
Inside Housing reported on the edit to Approved Document B of the Building Regulations (ADB), in which the government added a new definition of the term ‘filler’, which the news outlet notes has been ‘central to the debate on cladding regulation’. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had written to social housing landlords eight days after the Grenfell Tower fire to point to an ADB paragraph requiring that ‘filler material’ be of limited combustibility.
With aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding made up of two sheets of aluminium either side of a core material, the permanent secretary at MHCLG Melanie Dawes had claimed that the polyethylene core at Grenfell was a filler material ‘and that it therefore fell under this requirement’, but a number of experts including inquiry expert witness Dr Barbara Lane ‘have rejected this interpretation’.
Dr Lane among others had found instead that the lower standard of Class 0 was required, and the update to ADB saw MHCLG refer to ‘filler material (such as the core materials of metal composite panels, sandwich panels and window spandrel panels but not including gaskets, sealants and similar)’. This material, it said, should be of limited combustibility, but Inside Housing said this means the section ‘is now unambiguous in its restriction of the core materials used in ACM cladding’.
The news outlet added that such materials are prohibited on high rise residential building ‘anyway’ under the combustible materials ban announced last year, but that this change would apply to buildings above 18m ‘not covered by the ban’. An MHCLG spokesperson said: ‘This refreshed text provides clear guidance for building owners to ensure they meet our regulations so there is no misunderstanding of their responsibility for residents’ safety.’
It also sent a circular letter to both local authorities and building control bodies about the new version of ADB, adding: ‘Approved Document B has been redrafted to clarify its language and content in line with the department’s style guide for approved documents. There are no changes to the technical guidance within Approved Document B.’