Results of FPA’s Cladding of Tall Buildings market survey released

Towards the end of 2023, the Fire Protection Association conducted a market survey on the use of cladding on tall buildings.

The purpose was to gauge views in relation to the compliance of cladding on High Rise/Risk Building (HRBs). The results of the survey have now been released and provide a number of interesting findings, including: 

  • 75% of participants expect that there will be a need for future full-scale testing for both new and existing systems 
  • 68% of participants expect to be using only Class A products in the future 
  • there is a strong preference for a more robust assessment method 
  • there is a strong wish for insurers to play a greater part in the recognition of a better assessment system. 

The full survey results are available here.

RISC 501: Fire Test and Assessment Method for External Cladding Systems  
One clear outcome for the survey was the agreement of respondents that a more robust assessment method for tall systems, including a large-scale fire test recognised by insurers, is needed. In November 2023, following an extensive research project involving the University of Central Lancashire, external consultants, and insurers, the FPA developed RISC 501: 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. 

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 the vertical spread of fire. 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. Whilst now published, it is highly likely that with ongoing use, RISC 501 will need to be adapted to address the compliance needs. 

Industry Cladding Focus Forum 
Another outcome of the survey is that there appeared to be a lack of coordinated approach to the topic of fire safety compliance for cladding on HRBs, despite multiple activities across the construction industry. To address this, RISCAuthority will convene a Cladding Focus Forum on 8 July 2024 at the FPA’s head office at the Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh.

It is expected that the group will consider challenges affecting cladding fire performance and provide a forum for discussion of issues facing the cladding industry. The outcome aimed for is to collectively work to resolve the issues identified and provide positive actions on matters of compliance (testing, inspection, and certification or TIC) of the design, installation, and maintenance of cladding.

Topics which could be discussed include:

  • a robust test method, such as RISC 501 
  • ensuring type test specification is replicated on site
  • impact on inspection methods and regimes e.g. BS 9980 
  • a Best Practice Guide.

Speaking about RISC 501 and the upcoming cladding focus forum, Technical Director at the FPA, George Edwardes said, “RISC 501 was developed as a result of this extensive research project and gives those both developing and procuring cladding an opportunity to demonstrate compliance to the high standards now demanded for high rise buildings.

We hope that further engagement with stakeholders from across the cladding, insurance, and related sectors will aid the development of future British and European cladding test standards, and see the upcoming forum feeding into this process.”

If you feel this group would be of value to you in your role and are interested in participating you can register your interest here.