Streetsmart insurance Blog
Officials trace the likely genesis of the Grenfell Tower fire to a faulty refrigerator. But the use of Reynobond PE, an exterior building cladding made by Pittsburgh-based Arconic, Inc., may have contributed to the rapid spread of the fire from floor to floor around the building's exterior.
The cladding - illegal to use on high-rise projects in the United States - consists of thin sheets of aluminum on either side of a core of polyethylene, a flammable plastic.
This type of cladding is common in the U.K. and around the world. At least 600 buildings in the U.K. alone have the cladding installed, according to the British government, and it's already been implicated in another fire at the Lacrosse tower in Melbourne, Australia, in 2014, and possibly in other apartment building fires in France and the United Arab Emirates.
"We have this issue all over Europe, we have this issue in the U.S., and in Asia and the Middle East," said Didier Schutz, an engineer with SCOR, a global reinsurance company, who presented a session on combustible exterior wall assemblies at the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) annual conference in 2016. "It's a worldwide problem," he added.
While Arconic has discontinued the sale of the particular building cladding in question for high-rise projects, landlords should take care to ensure that their buildings don't have hazardous, flammable siding materials installed from years ago.
Specifically, all cladding should comply with the provisions of NFPA 285 - a rule from the NFPA adopted under the International Building Code that regulates the use of combustible materials in non-load-bearing siding.
Flammable materials in houses, small apartments
Smaller landlords, too, should take care to ensure their buildings are constructed with fire-resistant materials. While vinyl siding is generally considered to be flame-resistant itself, it can melt if there is a fuel source such as shrubbery very near to the building - leaving the wall exposed.
Landlords can take steps to ensure the entire building is constructed with tenant safety in mind.
- Metal shingles
- Clay or cement tiles
- Cementitious composite.
For more information on fire safety in home construction and renovation, visit NFPA.org.