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Local Government Association slams desktop studies

30 April 2018

THE CHAIRMAN of the Local Government Association (LGA) was warned that the Grenfell Tower fire has exposed that desktop studies are not fit for purpose.

In her interim report last year, Dame Judith Hackitt called on the government to significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve cladding and insulation systems on high-rise residential buildings – a recommendation the Government is currently consulting upon. 

The LGA has spoken out that in its opinion the Grenfell Tower tragedy has exposed that the UK has a system for ensuring buildings are safe, which is not adequate. LGA has warned that the use and misuse of desktop studies is at the heart of the problem and the LGA has been clear that desktop studies should no longer be a route to compliance for cladding systems on high-rise and complex buildings.

Lord Porter said: “These studies allow the results of tests on one cladding and insulation system to be extrapolated to ‘prove’ a different system is safe, despite a raft of concerns that have been expressed about the reliability of the tests themselves and the competence of those producing the extrapolated studies.

"Unfortunately, upon a close reading of the consultation’s impact assessment there is the admission that the Government’s proposals could result in more desktop studies. Meanwhile the document does not offer a ban as a fully-fledged option.

"It is vital that the Government resists industry pressure that seeks to allow the continued use of these studies as a minimum.

"But we want the Government to go further. The launch of the consultation was followed by the initial fire investigation report by BRE Global, the firm that runs fire testing in the UK, being leaked to the Evening Standard. It sets out how the fire may have been able to spread with such devastating consequences. 

"Now the association of British Insurers and the Fire Protection Association have conducted tests that seek to expose cladding and insulation systems to real world fire conditions and have called for fundamental reform as a result. In one case the test had to be stopped because of the ferocity of the fire.

"These findings make it clear that the Government must change the rules so that all material in cladding and insulation systems on complex and high-rise buildings has to be non-combustible. 

"The British Standards Institute has said that reforming the test would take 18 months. Building owners need clarity now as they seek to replace flammable cladding and insulation. Using non-combustible material only would provide that clarity.

"The tragedy at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again and no one should have to live in fear about their safety, be that in the buildings they live in, work in or visit.

"Non-combustible cladding and insulation systems are an essential step in this process."