10% of towers fail Building Research Establishment tests, says government

The government has announced that 10% of the cladding tested across 600 tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire has failed a crucial combustibility test.

Building Research Establishment tests revealed that 60 blocks across 25 local authority areas had not met the current standard. The outcome of tests of the remaining 540 towers has not been revealed.

Towers in seven London boroughs, plus Doncaster, Manchester, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Stockton-On-Tees and Sunderland were affected, plus 11 other so far unnamed areas; 25 in all.

In the past few days Camden council has moved out tenants from tower blocks on its Chalcots estate in north London as it seeks to replace cladding material it deems to be a risk. Hundreds of residents have been forced to move, although some are refusing to go, despite being urged to do so.

In a statement at the weekend the Communities and Local Government minister, Sajid Javid said he expected authorities and landlords to give the highest priority to buildings with which they have most concern.

“But we should not be in the position where buildings have such cladding on them. How this occurred – and preventing this from happening again – is likely to be a key question for the public inquiry.

“It is important to stress that cladding itself is not dangerous, but it is important that the right type is used. Also, a failure in testing of the cladding does not necessarily mean that a building will have to be evacuated; the decision by Camden Council to evacuate four of the five towers on the Chalcots Estate was because the failed testing of the external cladding was compounded by multiple other fire safety failures which the fire inspection team found within the buildings.”

Meanwhile a company which makes and supplies the insulation material for the rainscreen cladding systems for buildings higher than 18m has said it will stop supplying it to such projects with immediate effect.

Ipswich-based Celotex said it was shocked by Grenfell Tower fire. In a statement it said: “In view of the focus on rainscreen cladding systems and the insulation forming part of them, Celotex believes that the right thing to do is to stop the supply of Celotex RS5000 for rainscreen cladding systems in buildings over 18m tall with immediate effect, including in respect of ongoing projects, pending further clarity.  

“Given the developments of the past twenty four hours, we wish to discuss with the authorities how we can restore confidence in the products that we supply to the above 18m market.”