Stripping buildings of their cladding – even if it’s suspect – could actually increase the risk of fire, landlords have been warned.
Tower blocks across the UK have been stripped bare of their cladding in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which at least 80 people were killed.
However, the government has now warned landlords that doing so could increase the risk of a massive blaze – as combustible insulation is being left exposed for weeks on end.
In a warning to councils, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has told building owners ‘not to create conditions which may worsen the integrity of the cladding system… [including] leaving material exposed which could reduce fire performance’.
The Guardian recently reported that insulation which is more combustible than that used in Grenfell Tower has been left exposed for almost three weeks on at least six blocks on the Pendleton estate in Salford.
Tenants are apparently worried about their homes being left more vulnerable to fire than before.
One fire safety expert has claimed that landlords in Salford have now breached building regulations, and have created ‘a known fire risk’.
‘People in this block and the other blocks want the insulation taking out,’ Jon Smith, a resident for the last 20 years of the 22 storey Thorne House on the Pendleton estate, told the Guardian.
‘It is more dangerous in our opinion than the cladding that covers it because it is combustible. Now it is exposed, you only need some idiot after a night on the drink deciding to conduct their own fire test and the whole block goes up.’
Arnold Tarling, a fire safety expert and chartered surveyor at Hindwoods, added that ‘it is definitely a fire risk now, when it might not have been in the past’.
‘Exposed insulation on the exterior of a building is not safe because of the risk of the fire spreading over the surface,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t comply with building regulations … They have guaranteed there is definitely a fire risk.’
In its latest guidance, the government is now saying that ‘where sample panels are removed, they should be replaced immediately with a suitable material’ in order to comply with fire safety regulations.