The Government’s expert fire advisory panel is now seeking further advice on whether cladding must be stripped from towers where basic fire tests confirm cladding is combustible.
The deepening national crisis has left the onus on councils and building owners to decide whether they should remove cladding rather than receiving any expert Government advice.
Now the advisory body headed by Sir Ken Knight, the former government chief fire and rescue adviser, aims to set out clearer guidance for owners and the industry.
The move comes as 181 tower blocks in 51 local authority areas are now known to have failed fire cladding safety tests.
This new total represent a 100% of all panels tested as part of the national safety operation to identify buildings with cladding similar to Grenfell tower.
Salford has the highest number of failed cladding with 29 towers found so far with the at-risk aluminium composite material.
Some experts are now calling into question the wisdom of stripping blocks. One told the Enquirer: “Striping the cladding could compromise the remaining insulation and fire stopping.”
Even the Government’s newly-formed fire advisory body said the fire tests only examined the filler inside the aluminium panels.
But because the cladding system has not been tested, it considers that some buildings could still be deemed to be safe, assuming the entire cladding, insulation and cavity block system worked to expected standards.
In a statement Sir Ken said: “We will engage with experts across the country to consider whether these panels can be used safely as part of a wider building external wall system, and therefore could remain on a building under certain approved circumstances.
“If, in the meantime, the responsible person for the building chooses to take down and replace cladding, care should be taken to consider the impact that removal may have on the other wall elements, especially insulation, and therefore on the overall fire integrity of the building as well as other Building Regulation requirements.
“The advice of a competent professional who specialises in the fire performance of cladding assemblies should be sought to assist in these considerations.”