Exterior Cladding: Three Years on from Grenfell

May 28, 2020, By

It is coming up to three years since the Grenfell fire in West London. Seventy-two lives were lost, and many more were injured, in the tragic fire which spread rapidly across the building’s exterior cladding. When investigated, it surfaced that the exterior cladding did not to comply with building regulations.

Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), with a polythene core, was the primary cause of the fire’s spread.

Slow movement from the Government in relation to fire safety led to more flat block fires in 2019, from Barking to Bolton. Reporting on the fires last year, the Guardian stated that “of the 436 high-rise buildings identified as having the same cladding as Grenfell…318 still have not had it removed.”

Flat Block Fires

On Sunday 24th May, a fire broke out in a Northern Quarter block of flats. This was the second of its kind since 2017. This fire spread across the building’s wooden balconies, rather than cladding. In fact, after the 2017 fire, an investigation into the exterior cladding concluded that it was non-combustible.

Exterior Cladding Regulations

In light of the Grenfell Tower disaster, a £600m Building Safety Programme was launched. It was established to ensure that residents in high-rise residential buildings are safe. All ACM cladding that didn’t meet building regulations was to be removed from buildings by the end of June 2020. This was, unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ prevented progress.

With the restrictions of lockdown, most, if not all, of these projects were forced to stop. As of the 30th April, Government data showed that of 307 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings with ACM exterior cladding that required removal, just 56 were completed.

This means that over 81% of them were not completed, two months before the deadline.

Exceptional circumstances do apply, however it looks as though they were not going to be completed on schedule regardless.

Fire Safety & Residential Landlord Responsibilities

Equally for landlords, leaseholders and tenants of these kinds of property, fire safety is at the forefront of people’s minds with the Grenfell disaster still fresh in our memory.

With the Northern Quarter fire, smoke alarms didn’t go off until people had been evacuated because the fire spread via wooden balconies. This is something that should be considered by landlords, because although everyone was evacuated safely this time, there is no saying that people will be so lucky again.

In addition to fire safety, gas and electrical safety must also be considered.

Billion-pound Fund to Remove Unsafe Cladding

On 26th May 2020, the Government shared that they will launch a new fund to meet the cost for removal of unsafe non-ACM cladding on residential buildings that are 18 metres or higher, which do not comply with building restrictions.

This will give greater peace of mind to landlords and tenants in high-rise blocks. It is, however, predominantly targeted at supporting private sector leaseholders who are facing significant bills.

Expert Property Litigation Advice

Our Head of Property Litigation, Daniel Stern, was highly involved in legal commentary at the time of the Grenfell fire.

Additionally, in this article from 2018 he explains who is responsible for the costs of re-cladding, and the costs of preventing this scale of disaster from occurring again.

Daniel and his team stay hot on the pulse of news and developments in property litigation. If you have any queries regarding fire safety of these types of high-rise buildings, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Call us on 0161 969 3131 or leave your contact details and we will call or email you back to discuss your queries, concerns or requirements.