Following the Grenfell fire, the Government have issued a consultation paper on restricting or banning
the use of 'desktop studies' as a way of assessing the fire
performance of external cladding systems.
The consultation follows recommendations made by Dame Judith
Hackitt in her interim report from the Independent Review of
Building Regulations and Fire Safety published last year.
The consultation is seeking views on whether 'desktop studies'
are appropriate for all construction products, wall systems
(cladding) or for any other purpose and asks whether 'desktop
studies' should be used at all.
If 'desktop studies' are deemed appropriate, the proposed
changes include improving the transparency of assessments, enabling
proper scrutiny of results and ensuring that the studies can only
be carried out by properly accredited bodies that have the relevant
Assessment in lieu of tests, also known as 'desktop studies' are
an established part of the system for classifying the fire
performance of construction products and systems set out in current
Building Regulations under paragraph 1b of Annex A of Approved
However, following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower and the
subsequent failure of a number of cladding systems under large
scale fire tests, ARCH does not believe that "desktop studies"
should be used at all in assessing the fire safety of cladding
ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby comments:
"In considering whether "desktop
studies" are sufficient to approve cladding materials and systems
for use on high rise residential buildings we need to look at this
from the point of view of the residents of high rise blocks (and
future prospective tenants and buyers) who, following Grenfell,
will rightly expect absolute assurances that their building is
Residents find it incredible that the
systems of construction and building regulation in this country
have failed them to the extent that hundreds of high rise buildings
across the country, in different ownership and of different
tenures, have been allowed to be fitted with cladding systems that
have since been proven to have failed the large scale fire safety
tests carried out following the Grenfell fire and ask the question:
why weren't such tests carried out before the cladding systems were
Residents of older high rise blocks
see the benefit of safe systems of cladding which improve the
thermal value of high rise buildings and reduce often unaffordable
heating bills. However residents also have a reasonable expectation
that in future no cladding systems (of any type) should be
installed on high rise buildings until and unless the particular
cladding system proposed has been subject to the same large scale
fire safety tests and is proven to be safe.
Following Grenfell I am doubtful that
residents of older high rise buildings would be prepared to agree
to proposals to install cladding systems on their blocks unless the
type of cladding and the cladding system proposed has been subject
to a large scale fire safety test and a full copy of the fire
safety test has been made available for public inspection. Equally
I can't see many buyers in the private housing market being
prepared to buy an apartment in a high rise block unless they
receive similar assurances that the cladding on their home (and
their investment) is safe - I certainly wouldn't"
Further details of the consultation is available here and the deadline for consultation
responses is 25 May 2018.