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Building Regulations for External Cladding

Building Regulations for External Cladding

Building Regulations for External Cladding

Since the Grenfell Fire tragedy in 2017, the government has been reviewing the use of flammable materials in high-rise buildings.

In 2018 the government banned the use of combustible materials in the external walls of buildings over 18 metres high and in 2022, they announced further changes to the use of these materials.

This included a ban on the use of combustible materials on the external walls of new hotels, hostels and boarding houses in England over 18 metres, as well as a ban on the use of metal composite materials with an unmodified polyethylene core on all new buildings in England regardless of height.

The changes were implemented through the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2022 and came into effect in December 2022.

This blog will explain what the cladded building regulations are, how they work in practice and why it is important to have them.

The information given here is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

For specific guidance on the building regulations, please contact our property disputes solicitors on 0330 175 7613, or email Andrew Olins at andrew.olins@ibblaw.co.uk.

What are the building regulations for external cladding?

The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2022 are legislative measures introduced by the government to enhance safety standards in construction projects across England.

These regulations build upon the existing frameworks in the 2018 regulations to address concerns regarding the use of combustible materials, particularly in high-rise buildings, following the Grenfell Fire tragedy.

Key provisions of the 2022 amendments include extending bans on combustible materials to include a broader range of building types, such as hotels, hostels, and boarding houses over 18 meters in height.

The regulations also prohibit the use of metal composite materials with unmodified polyethylene cores in the external walls of all new buildings, regardless of height. By implementing these amendments, the government aims to mitigate fire risks, improve building safety, and protect occupants.

What do the regulations ban?

Since December 2018, combustible materials have been banned for use on the outer walls of new buildings standing at least 18 meters tall and containing one or more dwellings, institutions, or residential spaces. This ban, outlined in the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018, included high-rise residential towers, hospitals, care homes, student accommodations, and boarding school dormitories. However, hotels, hostels, and boarding houses were initially exempt.

The regulations in 2020 extended this ban to include hotels, hostels, and boarding houses in England that are at least 18 meters tall. Given that the occupants of these buildings are likely to be less familiar with their surroundings, there is considered to be a greater risk if a fire were to break out. Balconies, solar panels, and solar shading devices attached to these outer walls will also fall under the ban, with a limited exception for ground floor awnings. Certain materials, such as fibre optic cables, will be exempt from the ban.

Along with expanding the buildings the regulations apply to, they completely prohibit the use of metal composite materials, specifically those with an unmodified polyethylene core, in the outer walls of all new buildings and buildings undergoing construction, regardless of their height or purpose.

Is approval needed for work on external walls?

If you’re considering re-rendering or replacing timber cladding on external walls, it’s important to be aware that cladding regulations in the UK may be applicable, depending on the scale of the renovation.

Typically, if 25 per cent or more of an external wall undergoes re-rendering, re-cladding, re-plastering, or internal relining, or if 25 per cent or more of the outer layer of a wall is reconstructed, the building regulations for external walls would likely come into effect. In such cases, there would usually be a requirement to enhance thermal insulation.

Similarly, if you intend to install insulation within a cavity wall, specific requirements will be enforced to ensure that the insulation material is suitable for the purpose. For certain foam insulants, an assessment of the risk of formaldehyde gas emission will be conducted to ensure safety compliance.

Who is the ‘fire safety rating of construction material’ determined by?

In England, fire safety ratings are primarily determined by regulatory bodies and local authorities. The key organisation responsible for overseeing fire safety regulations and enforcement in high-rise residential buildings is now the Building Safety Regulator.

The Building Safety Regulator in England is part of the Health and Safety Executive and was established under The Building Safety Act 2022. The role of the Building Safety Regulator is to regulate higher-risk buildings, raise the safety standards of all buildings and help professionals in design, construction, and building control, to improve their competence.

The Building Safety Regulator is responsible for high-rise residential buildings with at least 7 floors or at least 18 metres in height and at least 2 residential units. They also regulate care homes and hospitals during their design and construction phases.

The government has provided guidelines and regulations through various legislations such as the Building Safety Act. These laws outline the responsibilities of building owners, managers, and landlords in ensuring fire safety measures are in place and maintained.

Local authorities and the Fire and Rescue Services also play a crucial role in enforcing these regulations, conducting inspections, and issuing fire safety notices if necessary. Regulatory bodies, government legislation, and local authorities collectively ensure that fire safety ratings are determined and upheld.

Are there different regulations for buildings of different heights?

For residential buildings ranging from 11 to 18 meters in height, fire safety guidance also outlines restrictions on the use of combustible materials in their external walls and balconies.

This guidance aims to offer designers and developers flexibility in material selection, permitting the use of materials such as structural timber in residential buildings under 18 meters tall. It also acknowledges the existing requirement for sprinkler installation in new residential buildings exceeding 11 meters, which enhances safety and reduces the risk of injury during fire emergencies.

For residential buildings over 11 meters in height, the fire safety guidance requires a Secure Information Box to be installed. This box ensures that fire and rescue services have access to crucial building information. Residential developments over 18 meters tall must also integrate an Evacuation Alert System to help emergency services inform residents about any changes in evacuation plans.

Get in touch with our solicitors specialising in building regulations for external cladding

The information given here is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

For specific guidance on building regulations, please contact us on 0330 175 7613, or email us at enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk to set up a meeting.