Cladding is a valuable element of the construction or renovation process and can provide insulation, add structural integrity, protect from high winds, reduce water absorption and making a building more resistant to cracks. However, for both high-risk and high-rise buildings the emergence of a fire can be devastating.
What is non-combustible cladding?
The exterior shell of a building has a very significant range of benefits ranging from aesthetic appeal to protection of the underlying structure. Non-combustible cladding plays critical role in ensuring the safety of the building and the people within it. It is manufactured to withstand the expansion of a fire up the outside of a building and to reduce its ability to re-enter the structure at a higher point.
Preventing the spread of fire.
There are a number of materials that can be used for non-combustible cladding. Aluminium, steel, brick and fibre-cement can all be used to create a1 and a2 rated cladding materials. Ash & Lacy’s Aluminium, ACM and Brick Façade systems, as well as AxiAL AX and AXR rainscreen support systems have been independently tested and classified by Warringtonfire. None of our products or systems achieved lower than an A2-s1, d0 classification to EN 13501-1, with many achieving an A1 classification to EN 13501-1 making them all classified as non-combustible.
The risks of not using the Correct Cladding
When combustible materials are used for façade cladding there is certainly an increased risk that a fire can spread via the façade to other floors and potentially produce toxic smoke in the process. Non-combustible cladding is fully fire resistant and is defined as A1 and A2 rated and seen as having no contribution to a fire. The risks of not using non-combustible cladding can be severe.
- External Fire Climb
This occurs when panels on the exterior of a building ignite and become the source and fuel for the fire. As the heat builds below, the fire is transmitted to the panels above spreading both vertically, and to a lesser extent, horizontally. This has the capacity to do extensive and immediate damage to the external infrastructure of the building and presents an immediate threat the people below as panels and other materials fall off the structure. The heat of the fire can also damage external systems, electrics, and other services. Finally, this mechanism can rapidly spread the fire to other parts of the structure
- Fire Re-entry
As the fire spreads across the exterior cladding it may find points where it can enter the building through open windows or other unprotected areas. In some cases, the heat of the fire may break the window glass creating additional access points. This process allows the fire to bypass any internal fire doors and security measures as well as the ability to leap compartment floors, resulting in secondary fires within the structure. The nature of this type of spread makes the containment and control of the fire extremely difficult for firefighters.
- Smoke and Toxic Smoke
The smoke produced by flammable panels can itself be a serious risk to the building and more seriously to the people in or around the structure. The first risk is direct exposure to the smoke which can have the ability to cause loss of consciousness and asphyxiation. Smoke from combustible panels may be drawn into the ventilation systems of high-rise buildings and if the smoke is draw back into the building it poses a significant risk to life for occupants as well as firefighters.
It is for this reason that non-combustible panels and cladding features are an essential part of today’s essential construction criteria.
The features of non-combustible cladding panels?
Ash & Lacy always advise using non-combustible materials for façade cladding (including sub construction and insulation) on high-risk and high-rise structures. This is defined as a material does not contribute to a fire. The evaluation and scale used for measuring non-combustibility is set out by the Euroclass system. Only A1 and A2 classes are fully non-combustible. As non-combustible panels do not contribute to the fire, they also do not emit smoke. Fire prevention and safety is our primary concern, and we are can provide complete and detailed information regarding the fire safety tests used on our products.
Ash & Lacy are one of the most experienced providers of non-combustible cladding and façade structures within the UK. For more information about our range of non-combustible products, please call our specialist advisor on: Tel: 0121 525 1444