Vivalda Group’s founder and chairman, Peter Johnson, has urged contractors and architects to tread carefully in the wake of James Brokenshire’s recent announcement to fund the re-cladding of 166 privately-owned, high-rise buildings.
Earlier this month (May, 2019) the housing minister confirmed a £200m grant scheme to replace dangerous Grenfell Tower-style cladding. The scheme offers to fully fund the replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on privately-owned high-rise residential properties.
However, Vivalda’s Peter Johnson is concerned that despite the publication of the Hackitt Report on safety and the subsequent ban on combustible cladding board, there is still a lack of joined-up thinking regarding the specification and testing of new cladding systems.
Peter Johnson said: “While the new generation of non-flammable cladding products perform very well when fire tested (achieving A2 and above), we all know there is more to cladding than just the external face – facades comprise many layers including acoustic boards, thermal insulation, vital air voids and myriad fixing systems. Cladding is a much more complex topic than first meets the eye and thus deserves a truly holistic approach.
“Specifiers working on high-rise housing projects have been faced with an unpalatable challenge in the wake of Grenfell. Despite the Hackitt report and the general ban on combustible panels last year, there is still scant guidance on the safe choice of cladding systems.
“We think widespread and comprehensive testing of all parts that go to make up complete cladding systems should be part of the solution, so should clarity and access to information for specifiers. We need to make safety paramount, but also not onerous for those involved in recommending the right cladding solution.
“We’re calling for a much more robust approach from the safety authorities, who should treat all proposed cladding systems as a single, integrated product; not a group of unrelated sub-components. For this reason, we decided last year to supply only A2 and above (ie non-combustible) products to all high-rise buildings. While the government has finally relented – funding the replacement of questionable cladding on 166 private towers – we think the industry needs to take the opportunity to set new, unrivalled standards of building quality for all tall buildings.”