the built environment, the FPA – funded through RISCAuthority and assisted by key industry experts – undertook research to investigate the potential for occupant toxic exposure from some currently permitted cladding material combinations. The experimental investigation looked at fire

gas exposure from non firestopped penetrations through the external envelope of a building, in association with the use of materials in the make up of rainscreen cladding systems that may contribute to fire. A previous study identified a potential conflict between: •

the firestopping requirements for cladding penetrations, such as vents

• the reaction time of cavity barriers •

the use of materials in the building’s envelope that, when subjected to fire, can produce toxic byproducts

A key feature of rainscreen cladding systems is a vented void formed between the insulation material and the aluminium composite material panel, which may also contain other materials such as vapour membranes. Any non firestopped device, such as a bathroom or kitchen vent, gives rise to the opportunity to communicate the products of a fire in the void to all occupied spaces. This study confirmed a potential for human exposure to fire products from materials that

RISCAuthority insight W

Dr Jim Glockling writes about the FPA’s recent toxicity research report, which analysed toxic exposure from compliant cladding combinations

ITH THE government’s decision made towards the end of last year on the future of combustible material use within

make up rainscreen cladding systems, from configurations that are compliant in terms of the materials used and the current firestopping requirement of penetrations that breach the connecting void. The research is also pertinent to situations where firestopping around features, such as windows, has not been carried out as required. For a room size typical of a kitchen or living

room, connected to the rainscreen cladding void via a 100mm vent, the results suggest that for some compliant material combinations incapacitation can occur in around ten minutes after the fire breaks into the location of the cladding system containing the vent, and, if they cannot escape before becoming unconscious, that death may follow within 30 minutes if they are not rescued. This work is offered to government and the

Grenfell inquiry to assist in future discussions on the merits of the specification of non combustible materials in the built environment, and the need to strengthen regulations in respect of fire and smoke ingress. At the very least, this work should prompt further research into whether the evaluation of fire toxicity should become an integral part of the building products approval process. The full report can be downloaded free of charge at

Dr Jim Glockling is technical director of the Fire Protection Association and director of RISCAuthority FEBRUARY 2019


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