Advice for construction professionals and building owners on High Pressure Laminate (HPL) panel systems issues
Recent advice from the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, set up by the government in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, notes that the risk of unsafe HPL cladding systems on residential buildings of 18m or more, is not as high as the risk of unsafe ACM Category 3 panel systems (ACM with unmodified polyethylene filler).
Priority should be given to the removal of systems using ACM Category 3 panels, however, this should be followed by immediate action to remediate unsafe HPL cladding systems. This should be carried out as soon as possible.
Alongside the government’s investigations and advice regarding aluminium composite material (ACM) panels there has been ongoing research and testing of non-ACM cladding systems when subjected to fire. The Building Research Establishment has been commissioned to carry out the testing programme and this is expected to conclude this summer.
Following advice from MHCLG’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel, the government commissioned a large-scale test on an HPL panel system, which was carried out by the Fire Protection Association on 11 July 2019. Subsequently, Advice Note 22 was issued on 18 July 2019.
A system composed of HPL panels with fire retardant Class B-s1, d0 together with stone wool insulation was tested in accordance with BS 8414 and achieved a BR 135 classification. See more from the report.
It is important to note that although this HPL system achieved the necessary performance criteria, and could be safe on existing buildings, the safety of this system, as with any other cladding system, is dependent on its fitting.
The Expert Panel also stresses that HPL panels with a European classification of Class C or D, and cladding systems comprising HPL panels of any classification when used in combination with combustible insulation are very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire. Building owners with these types of HPL cladding systems should take immediate action in line with MHCLG Advice Note 14.
Information on the type of cladding used on a building may be found on as-built drawings, in the Operation and Maintenance manual, or in the package of fire safety information issued in line with Regulation 38. Building owners may also wish to confirm that their buildings have not been made unsafe through material substitutions during construction or later alterations, this may require material testing which should be carried out by a UKAS accredited laboratory.
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