Government continues crackdown on combustible materials with updated decking

With the Government calling for the removal of combustible materials from balconies on residential buildings, owners, specifiers and architects are facing the challenge of finding a non-combustible alternative to traditional timber and composite decking.

The updated advice from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) followed a serious fire in June at Samuel Garside House in Barking. Flames quickly spread across the building via external wooden balconies, destroying 20 flats and damaging a further 10.

While MHCLG have called on building owners to strip all combustible materials from balconies ‘as soon as practicable,’ their directive is not limited to just buildings over 18m tall. The Government outlawed combustible materials on buildings above this height in December 2018.

In fact, the recent fire that engulfed the Cube in Bolton has left many industry bodies, including the Fire Protection Association (FPA), urging the next Government to not limit any regulations to ‘the mere height of buildings’, and to instead extend it to cover all buildings.

With the Government’s updated advice putting an increasing spotlight on balconies and decking, Richard Izzard, Managing Director of Ali-deck has seen a growing number of building owners and industry professionals explore aluminium as a non-combustible replacement for timber and composite solutions.

Richard comments: “The awful fire in Barking and other ‘near misses’ across the country have unfortunately demonstrated that problems stem far beyond cladding alone. Whilst the Government’s latest advice is necessary and to many well overdue, it certainly creates significant challenges for existing building owners and architects working on new residential projects.

“With traditional timber and even composite decking no longer viable options, we’ve seen incredible demand for Ali-deck, our new aluminium decking system. In reality, aluminium is the optimal material for decking as it is strong, readily available, recyclable and most importantly, it’s inherently fire-resistant.

“By using aluminium as our base material, we’ve been able to harness these qualities and develop a system which is not only faster and easier to install, but can span 300% further than both timber and composite systems. By eliminating the need for joists every 400mm, there’s a 50% time saving on the underside - even before any deck boards are installed.

“When you then consider that 90% of the deck board can be installed prior to the balcony, there’s a further reduction to time spent on site. Ali-deck is suitable for both steel and concrete balconies and boasts a high load-bearing capacity, requiring less steel work and therefore significantly reducing costs.

“Best of all, Ali-deck carries Class A2-s1 and d0 fire ratings which is undoubtedly welcome news to building owners and professionals across the industry now looking for a safe and reliable solution.

“We’re incredibly proud to bring this unique and innovative solution to market and we’re delighted to be supporting the likes of Barratt Homes and St. George PLC with multiple high-profile projects. As the industry and central Government continues to raise standards and avoid another painful tragedy like Grenfell, solutions like Ali-deck will continue to play a vital role.”

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