Building insulation manufacturer Kingspan confirmed as part of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that it has retracted three test reports of external wall systems including its K15 phenolic foam insulation product. The three retracted tests relate to K15 with cement particle board (2005); K15 with “standard” grade HPL (2014) and K15 with terracotta tiles (2014). This followed communication between Kingspan and BRE, which in turn informed the Independent Expert Advisory Panel. In its letter to BRE, Kingspan advised that it has subsequently re-tested the current K15 insulation product available on the market in similar combinations to the tests which have been retracted and these achieved similar performance.
The Department has reminded fire safety professionals and building control bodies of the actions they should take in light of this new information.
This letter is primarily aimed at fire safety professionals, who are likely to have carried out a desktop study during the design of buildings with a top occupied storey more than 18 metres in height, using the results of the retracted tests. In this letter we remind fire safety professionals that they should identify from their records where the three retracted tests may have been used and inform their clients.
Major companies in the sector have already carried out the review recommended in the letter and there are no indications of major concerns based on their feedback. Therefore, it is not anticipated that there will be many more buildings needing remediation uncovered as a result of the action recommended in this letter.
Frequently asked questions
Why are building control bodies included in the letter when they are unlikely to have carried out a desktop assessment?
The letter is primarily aimed at fire safety professionals, who are likely to have carried out an assessment (direct, extended application or fire engineering assessment) using the results of the three retracted tests.
We do not expect fire safety professionals or building control bodies to review the assessments they did not undertake.
However, we are asking building control bodies to take reasonable steps to review their records, where possible and if they identify an assessment carried out by a third party, to alert them of the information provided in this letter.
Is the letter also addressed to Approved Inspectors?
This letter is addressed to fire safety professionals and building control bodies working in England which includes approved inspectors.
What building types are being referred to in the letter?
Any assessment (direct, extended application or fire engineering assessment) which uses data from the retracted test should be reviewed, but buildings where people sleep are generally the highest priority. Where necessary, the fire risk assessment for the building may need to be reviewed by the Responsible Person (as defined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The issue relates to buildings taller than 18 metres constructed since 2005 where Kingspan K15 insulation has been used.
What does this mean for building owners?
As we have previously made clear in our advice note, building owners should have an up to date fire risk assessment and understand the construction of external walls and the performance of those wall systems in the unlikely event of fire. We hope that this will assist them in appropriately understanding the construction of their external wall system. Building owners who have concerns about the impact on the retracted test should check with their fire safety professionals.
The Fire Safety Bill will require Responsible Persons to review the fire risk assessments of residential buildings to include the external wall system where the FRA does not already do so and the withdrawal of these tests should be considered when conducting such reviews.