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FM Global Cautions That Desktop Assessments Could Increase

FM Global believes the increased use of scientifically sound fire testing should replace desktop assessments. Government proposals to restrict desktop assessments could “in fact contribute to their wider use”

LONDON, UK - A new Government consultation launched on the 11th April seeks to address the concerns around using desktop assessments to accept the fire performance of external cladding including systems using Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM).

FM Global believes that options proposed by the Government to restrict desktop assessments do not address the fundamental issues and may actually result in a higher number of assessments being carried out.  It is FM Global’s opinion that if the Government proposals are passed, it may send a signal to the industry that desktop assessments for ACM cladding are acceptable and could therefore encourage their usage. There appears to be nothing in the proposals that would increase the evidence base that the assessments rely on.

There is strong evidence to suggest that desktop studies may have contributed to the use of dangerous combinations of building materials.  Following the tragic fire that engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower in June 2017, the Government has been identifying public buildings with Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding systems to assess whether the systems pass fire safety standards.  Of 319 public buildings the Government has identified with ACM cladding, only 13 had cladding systems that meet safety standards. The rise of desktop assessments for ACM cladding systems is the primary factor in explaining why the vast majority of the buildings tested by the Government have failed safety tests. Desktop assessments are often used to replace traditional fire-testing as a less costly solution, but critically, many assessments base their findings on limited knowledge and assumptions, allowing potentially dangerous, flammable materials on to building façades.

“We simply do not have enough data from actual fire tests to know if the desktop assessments are reflecting how these materials would behave in a fire. Therefore, we have no confidence in them. The Government proposals will not change the data that desktop assessments are based on and we are concerned they would in fact contribute to their wider use.” said Chris Johnson, Executive Vice President, FM Global.

“Testing for ACM cladding needs to be vigorous to avoid any more disasters like Grenfell. Only through scientifically based testing will we be able to develop the knowledge base and experience to fully assess the materials and whether they are fit for purpose. Without a sufficient knowledge base and detailed understanding of all the variables, relying on desktop assessments for cladding systems is like building on sand.”

 

About FM Global

Established nearly two centuries ago, FM Global’s capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management and the resilience of its client-owners. These owners, who share the belief that the majority of property loss is preventable, represent many of the world’s largest organisations. They work with FM Global to better understand the hazards that can impact their business continuity in order to make cost-effective risk management decisions, combining property loss prevention with insurance protection.

 

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