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A safety-first approach to cladding specification

It’s now 18 months since the Hackitt Report called for greater clarity of construction regulation and almost a year since new legislation was passed banning the use of combustible cladding materials for new high-rise residential blocks.

It’s a positive step in the right direction but, as it stands, the legislation only applies to buildings over 18m high.

With more fire safety regulation likely, and the huge job of replacing non-compliant cladding on legacy high-rise residential buildings still ongoing, the issue of fire safety in cladding specification is as topical as ever.

What we’ve seen at Shackerley, where all our SureClad ventilated facade materials are certified to A1 or A2-S1-d0 to BS EN 13501-1, is that the change of legislation for tall residential buildings has prompted a safety-focused specification culture across all buildings. We’ve seen a marked increase in the level of due diligence applied to cladding specification. This trend is driving quality-led specification, rather than a price-led ‘value engineered’ approach, with safety becoming a critical element of a system’s core performance criteria.

It remains important that a full understanding of a cladding system’s safety credentials informs the specification process. Natural stone and ceramic granite are universally classified as A1 non-combustible and are exempt from the need to be tested because these materials are already known to offer a fire-safe facade solution. However, some facade system finishes containing organic substances, such as resin, for example, do not meet either the Class A1 or A2 requirements of BS EN 13501-1.

Specifiers should, therefore, check the fire resistance of any cladding materials, other than ceramic or natural stone, by checking that they have been tested to BS EN 13501-1.

The key roles of fire-resistant glass

Fire safety has never been higher on the agenda for the building design industry. The climate follows the review of Building Regulations, which called for “a universal shift in culture to restore trust in the safety of our built environment”.

In tandem with a growing focus on fire safety, architects are becoming increasingly ambitious with their use of glass in high-rise projects. As such, glass needs to deliver fire safety performance that goes above and beyond regulations, helping create safe buildings without compromising on architectural appeal or natural light exposure.

When used as part of an external facade, fire-resistant glass helps prevent the spread of a blaze to neighbouring structures. Products, such as Pilkington Pyroclear Plus, enable facades to be fully glazed while complying with regulations including Document L (concerning the conservation of fuel and power) and Document K (which specifies protection from falling, collision and impact).

Meanwhile, for internal doors and glazed partitions, common in office or commercial buildings, fire-resistant glass can help provide a safe passage of escape for occupants while complying with Document M (access to and use of buildings).

The higher up a building you go, the more critical the requirement for this heat-insulating performance – as the time it takes to escape will be longer. Whilst glazed partition walls can help ensure safe evacuation, protection times of up to 120 minutes are needed to allow safe access for search and rescue personnel. These types of passive fire protection safety products need to be designed in conjunction with active fire safety solutions to form an overall fire strategy for the building.

Fire-resistant glass is key in meeting the modern demands of architects by delivering high safety performance without compromising on design.

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Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

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