New cladding fire test rigs aim to shake up market
The Fire Protection Association (FPA) has announced the launch of two new test rigs that will be able to test cladding systems to BS8414.
The move to make the rigs available means more capacity in a market where there have previously only been three test centres available: at BRE in Garston, Hertfordshire; Efectis at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland; and Thomas Bell-Wright Consultants, Dubai.
The FPA said the opening up of its new rigs at a facility in Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire, was in response to the recent government announcement restricting the assessment of external wall cladding systems.
A letter from the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), dated 10 September set out a government requirement for building control bodies to only accept external cladding systems that either contain only insulation products and filler materials of limited combustibility or comply with the performance as currently specified in the BS8414 test.
The FPA said that while it welcomed this move, it was “concerned about the lack of testing capacity in the UK” which could result in restricted availability and delay in the approval of building plans.
The FPA built the two new test rigs at its Fire Experimental Unit after it conducted research, sponsored by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in response to the Grenfell disaster and highlighted concerns with the BS 8414 test.
The FPA said: “The decision to fully open these for commercial use has been taken as a result of concerns about the lack of capacity in this market and it is hoped this will speed up the UK testing process. In addition, we have also built a half-sized rig that can be used for appraising bespoke features, for example the addition of a window or other opening to more closely replicate a real-life situation.”
The FPA aims to have test reports completed and with its clients within two weeks of the test.
In July this year, the FPA and US-based global safety science business UL announced that they would work together after signing a cooperation agreement aimed at transforming the testing and certification of facades and building envelope products within the UK.
That alliance is not yet thought to have been finalised and a spokesperson for the FPA said the new rigs would be active while the work to complete the alliance was carried out.