ACM – the Pressure to replace

13th November 2019

Building Owners should be aware that Government in the form of the MHCLG (Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government) is now applying considerable pressure to see ACM cladding panels replaced.

This links to the Phase 1 report on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry released late October 2019. Whilst that report was centrally concerned with ascertaining the events that took place, it contained a clear message at 26.4 about the compliance or otherwise of ACM clad buildings:-

Although it was not originally my intention to reach conclusions in Phase 1 about the tower’s compliance with the Building Regulations, I can see no good reason why that question should not be determined now so far as it relates to the external facade. I accept that the construction of the Building Regulations is ultimately a question of law and there is compelling evidence that requirement B4(1) was not met in this case. It would be an affront to common sense to hold otherwise. Although in another context there might be room for argument about the precise scope of the word “adequately”, it inevitably contemplates that the exterior must resist the spread of fire to some significant degree appropriate to the height, use and position of the building. In this case, whether one considers the rainscreen panels alone or the cladding system as a whole, or even the complete external envelope, including the original concrete structure, it is clear that the walls did not resist the spread of fire. On the contrary, they promoted it, as can be seen in the video recordings of the rapidly developing fire which engulfed the building in just over 2.5 hours.

Following that the Prime Minister made subsequent statements in the House of Commons, when he confirmed the government’s requirements with respect to the replacement of ACM cladding on private sector buildings; that there must now be an agreed schedule of dates for the carrying out of the remediation works and that replacement work itself must be completed by June 2020. This was in fact not a new warning – this had previously been set out in July by the housing secretary.

Regarding buildings that have yet to have an agreed remedial work schedule, the Prime Minister said that “they have had enough time. There are no more excuses; they must make those buildings safe, or face the consequences”.  Obviously no-one wants to be facing any type of action from the government or to publicly named by the government as an owner of a building that has not replaced the cladding by the June 2020 deadline.

The MHCLG is now starting to issue emails where they will acknowledge the difficulties faced however make clear that they are under increasing pressure to understand the position of defective buildings and express concern that further progress has not been made in terms of establishing firm commencement dates for remediation. The Secretary of State is keen that we make safe high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding as a matter of urgency.

The MHCLG is therefore applying pressure to ascertain an overarching estimated time-line of remediation milestones over the coming months, particularly for ACM-clad high rise buildings that have been in the formative stages of remediation for some time. MHCLG is looking for “remediation process” by “remediation owners”  to make a commitment to schedule a start date – albeit an estimated time frame, or details of clear plans towards remediation. To that end they are looking for the following milestones to have been completed:

  • Building Owners have specified a clear remediation plan?
  • Surveys have been completed?
  • Tendering is in progress?
  • Planning applications have been submitted to the local authority (where necessary)?
  • Start date established ?
  • Clear next steps?

“Remediation Owners” are being given but a few days or a working week to respond.

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