UK fire tests show 82 buildings have failed cladding systems
LONDON — British authorities have announced an independent review into building regulations after new tests identified 82 apartment towers whose cladding system failed to meet fire safety tests after the west London tower block blaze that killed at least 80 people.
Britain ordered more thorough testing on the cladding systems following the June 14 blaze, which began with a fire in one apartment’s refrigerator and spread quickly throughout the 24-story Grenfell Tower building.
Experts have warned about risks posed by the cladding for years because some systems use highly flammable plastic foam insulation, which can rapidly spread fires once it ignites, as previously seen in Australia, China and Dubai. Even aluminum composite panels rated fire-resistant can be dangerous if they aren’t properly installed.
“It’s clear we need to urgently look at building regulations and fire safety,” said Sajid Javid, the U.K. communities secretary, adding that the Conservative government “is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from Grenfell Tower fire, and to ensure nothing like it can happen again.”
The decision comes amid a new round of more comprehensive testing, which went further than the initial testing that saw hundreds of cladding samples fail tests.
The more exhaustive “whole system” testing created a simulated tall building and tested the insulation and the cladding materials together to see how they reacted. The department concluded that the screening test “would not meet the requirements for limited combustibility.”
The results released Friday, however, mark only the beginning as only one combination of cladding system was tested.
Angry residents want to know how building regulations that were meant to be among the world’s best could have failed so catastrophically.
Many accuse officials in Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s richest boroughs, of ignoring their safety concerns because the public housing building was home to a largely immigrant and working-class population.