The Guardian has reported that more than 70 new school buildings may have used combustible plastic foam insulation since it was banned on buildings over 18 metres high in December 2018, following the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Guardian article is based on industry research and does not state the height of the school buildings that are likely to have used combustible plastic foam insulation.
It is noted that in accordance with current building regulations, combustible cladding can still be used on buildings under 18 metres in height.
The Department for Education opened a consultation in relation to fire safety design for schools on 27 May 2021 and the deadline to provide responses is 18 August 2021. The current fire safety guidance for schools is set out in Building Bulletin (BB) 100. This is non-statutory guidance. The Government recognises that BB 100 needs updating.
The DfE’s consultation includes a section on cladding and sets out the current requirements, including the different requirements for school buildings above and below 18 metres in height. The consultation invites interested parties to state whether they agree with the current requirements in respect of cladding and, if not, explain why they disagree.
There are a number of other topics in the consultation, including, fire suppression systems and vertical means of escape. The Government intends to publish the results of the consultation and the DfE’s response in 2021. At this stage, the focus of the consultation in respect of cladding relates to the revised requirements. There is no mention of removing or replacing cladding that does not comply with the revised requirements.
There has been significant discussion regarding the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding on residential buildings since Grenfell and last year the Government announced that it would create a £1bn building safety fund to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings.
The fund specifically related to unsafe non-ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) cladding systems on residential buildings in the private and social sector that are over 18 metres high. The Government had already announced a £600million fund for the replacement of ACM cladding systems.
In February 2021 the Government announced a 5-point plan and revealed a £3.5billion fund for the cost of removing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and over in England as government backed loans to help leaseholders with flats in residential buildings between 11 and 18m in England to pay for cladding remediation work.