Fire Testing

RISC 501 – Fire Test and Assessment Method for External Cladding Systems

Enhancing cladding system fire safety 

The occurrence of large cladding system fires has been increasing since 1990. This is of particular concern as a building’s cladding system has the potential to spread fire around a building, bypassing the internal fire compartments.  

Combustible cladding systems are approved on high-rise buildings in the UK by the performance-based route to compliance, using the BS 8414 test method and BR 135 assessment criteria. However, a number of limitations have been identified with this route in relation to the appropriateness of the fuel source, test construction, construction detailing, assessment criteria, and availability of test results.  

Following an extensive research project involving the University of Central Lancashire, external consultants, and insurers, the FPA has developed a new fire safety assessment test (freely available to download here) through RISCAuthority, an annually funded research scheme which conducts research on behalf of the insurance sector, to address these limitations.

RISC 501 is designed to evaluate the fire safety performance of non-loadbearing external cladding systems and goes beyond the basic life safety standards, aiming to ensure resilient systems that can effectively prevent vertical spread. The test method is intended to be conducted either alongside BS 8414 so that the results can confer compliance with BR 135 and RISC 501, or as a standalone assessment. 

Key differences to BS 8414: 

  • Stricter construction criteria to ensure that the system installed during a fire test better represents the system installed on a real building. This also improves the repeatability of the fire test by making the test construction more consistent. 
  • Stricter temperature criteria designed to identify systems which can prevent vertical fire spread to multiple floors, rather than measuring an ‘acceptable’ rate of fire spread. 
  • Introduction of mechanical performance criteria designed to assess systems which could impede evacuation and firefighting operations. 
  • Introduction of gas sampling criteria as smoke toxicity is an emerging issue and must be measured to allow a comparison between cladding systems. 
  • Introduction of material fingerprinting for combustible products tested to allow a comparison between the products supplied for testing and those installed on a real building, therefore improving conformity between fire tests and real buildings. 
  • Improved transparency by mandating that all test results must be published publicly which increases the availability of successful test results and prevents failed test results from being hidden, therefore avoiding the misleading of customers. 

Why test to RISC 501? 

Assessing your system against RISC 501 produces vital evidence of its robustness when it comes to fire performance, providing a classification that protects both occupants and property by going beyond the minimum life safety requirements set out in the building regulations. Developed from an insurer’s perspective, RISC 501 is designed to demonstrate that systems on buildings replicate those tested, thereby reducing the insurance risk. 

With the aim of enhancing the fire safety of tall buildings through external cladding systems and improving building resilience, the FPA and RISCAuthority recommend that systems are assessed against RISC 501 in addition to BS 8414 to wholly demonstrate their ability to prevent fire spread to multiple floors.  

Why test with the FPA? 

  • Our laboratory is UKAS accredited for the delivery of BS 8414 cladding testing, BS 8458 watermist systems testing, a range of fire resistance tests, and IMO MSC/CIRC.848 
  • We carry out material identification analysis on materials subjected to BS 8414 and RISC 501 testing to produce a chemical fingerprint of what has been tested for the integrity of our reports? 
  • We have 4 full-size test rigs 
  • Very competitive prices, from a not-for-profit organisation 
  • Experienced laboratory staff 
  • Independent and impartial test results 
  • Excellent reporting turnaround times. 

Find out more 

Download RISC 501: Fire testing and assessment method for external cladding systems

Listen to the FPA's Assembly Point Podcast episode - Cladding: a safer route to compliance

Watch our webinar covering RISC 501 - A fire safety assessment test for external cladding

Read our F&RM article about RISC 501

Hear George Edwardes being interviewed about RISC 501

Download our fire research and testing brochure

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