The tragedy at Grenfell tower is shocking and very sad. An important lesson from this tragic event is that the code and standards concerning fire rating of exterior wall claddings of high rise building needs to be reviewed.
Zinc and aluminium are used as cladding materials in many countries. Their melting temperatures are 420 and 660 degrees centigrade, respectively. This means both can deform easily in the event of fires. Some tests have shown that even metal claddings deform in fires, exposing the insulation materials underneath which are combustible. Grenfell fire as well as some other fire incidents involving high rise buildings have shown that the use of combustible insulation in exterior wall claddings without adequate fire barriers and protection would potentially cause rapid fire spread, severe damages and losses.
Many existing codes and standards only require the claddings to be tested, these real fire incidents suggest that the whole cladding systems including the insulation materials need to be tested and fire protection measures such as horizontal barriers need to be implemented.
Jennifer Wen, Professor Engineering, School of Engineering University of Warwick
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0247 657 4255/ 07920 531221