Testing on cladding sped up

Research and experimental testing rigs owned by the Fire Protection Association (FPA) have been opened up for commercial use in a bid to speed up cladding testing in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

Building cladding must now comply with BS8414 tests in order to pass building control rules, however, there is limited capacity to test materials to see if they meet this standard. This move is designed to speed up that process and make more cladding materials available to be used, sooner.

The FPA carried out research in response to the Grenfell fire and highlighted some concerns with the 8414 test - as a result of these findings, two testing rigs were set up by the fire association in Gloucestershire. The rigs were used to inform the changes to the 8414 requirements.

These rigs have now been opened up to commercial use, due to further concerns about the lack of capacity for testing in the open market. An additional half sized rig has also been built which can assess bespoke features that bring the tests closer to real life situations.

The FPA will carry out the testing and return the reports to the customers within two weeks - vastly improving the usual waiting time and allowing builders to continue their projects.

Jonathan O’Neill from the FPA has stated that they offer timely, cost-effective testing by fire experts and as a not for profit organisation, they are there to facilitate the required testing. He points out that they have been instrumental in guiding research into the use of external cladding and non-combustible materials and are therefore well placed to carry out this research.