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Government bans MCM cladding panels on all buildings

Building and fire safety minister Lord Greenhalgh
Building and fire safety minister Lord Greenhalgh: “These changes will support our tough new regulatory regime”

The government has banned MCM (metal composite materials) cladding panels with an unmodified polyethylene (PE) core on all new buildings.

The ban comes among improvements to fire safety guidance included in a wider update. The update aims to tighten building regulations and provide clearer fire safety rules for the design or construction of residential developments.

The changes meet recommendations from phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

Combustibles ban extended

The government previously announced a ban on the use of combustible materials in and on the external walls of new blocks of flats over 18m, in England. The ban also applies to hospitals, student accommodation and dormitories in boarding schools.

The latest regulatory update, following a government review, extends the ban to new hotels, hostels and boarding houses of this height.

The government has also banned MCM PE on all new buildings at any height. This follows research carried out by the government into the fire risks associated with this material, and evidence heard at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

New statutory guidance

The government will also introduce new statutory guidance to restrict the combustibility of materials used in and on the external walls of residential buildings, between 11m-18m in height.

This will mean that lower-risk developments between 11m and 18m meet necessary safety standards – while allowing designers and developers flexibility to use environmentally friendly materials. It builds on a provision, which the government has already introduced, for sprinkler systems to be installed in new blocks of flats 11m and over, in England.

Information boxes and evacuation alert system

Meanwhile, the changes, introduced from the start of this month, mean that all new residential buildings above 11m will now have to include a ‘secure information box’. This will give fire and rescue services access to important details about a building in the event of a fire.

New residential developments over 18m will also have to incorporate an evacuation alert system to help fire and rescue services inform residents of a change in evacuation strategy, during an incident.

Other updates to the regulations being put forward will:

  • include elements of solar shading devices within the scope of the ban
  • amend the list of materials exempt from the ban to include fibre-optic cables and insulation materials 300mm from ground level
  • update the requirement of the ban to refer to the latest version of the British Standard classification for materials used on high-rise residential buildings
  • temporarily exempt cavity trays
  • amend the requirements for material change of use in buildings

Building and fire safety minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “We have introduced the biggest improvements to building safety in a generation, under the Building Safety Act.

“These changes will support our tough new regulatory regime – ensuring fire safety measures are incorporated into new high-rise homes and all new residential buildings meet the same safety standards.