In 2017, a devastating fire at Grenfell Tower shook the United Kingdom, claiming numerous lives and exposing critical flaws in the safety of high-risk buildings. Five years later, in 2022, the Building Safety Act was enacted, to reform the safety requirements for higher-risk buildings and ultimately give their residents more rights and protection to ensure their homes are safer.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry found that the building’s unsafe cladding was the primary cause of the fire spreading. In its wake, there has been a nationwide review of cladding materials on buildings throughout the UK.
Components of a building's cladding system that are deemed unsafe, primarily due to concerns about fire safety, are removed and replaced in a process called cladding remediation.
Cladding remediation is complex and a single block can typically take two years in total to remediate. In the most severe cases of unsafe cladding, the entire cladding system for a building may need to be replaced.
Which Types of Cladding Require Remediation?
The need for cladding remediation particularly applies to the type of cladding used at Grenfell – Aluminium Composite Material, or ACM – made from polyethylene plastic sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium. This combustible nature made ACM highly susceptible to rapid fire propagation.
However, ACM is not the sole material on the watchlist. Several other cladding materials, like High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) panels, have also been identified as unsafe in fire and in need of remediation.
To meet the new safety regulations, unsafe cladding must be removed from high-rise residential buildings and replaced with materials of limited combustibility to help prevent the spread of fire.
Challenges In Cladding Remediation
Cladding remediation can be a demanding process that comes with various challenges.
Coordinating the removal and replacement of cladding materials in occupied buildings without disrupting residents' lives and ensuring their quality of life during the recladding construction is a major challenge. Additionally, the availability of skilled labour and the strict timelines are also important factors that need to be factored in when planning for cladding remediation projects.
Addressing these challenges effectively is important to the success of socially responsible and cost-effective cladding remediation projects.
The Impact of Access Method On Cladding Projects
One critical factor that can significantly influence the outcome of a cladding project is the choice of access method. Opting for a socially responsible alternative to scaffolding, such as mast climbers, can substantially alleviate the disruptions experienced by residents and spare them from the common inconvenience known as the "scaffold shroud" during cladding remediation.
Mast climbers are also known to be a much more efficient access option compared to scaffolding, effectively shortening the project timeline and ensuring cost-effectiveness, while minimising the duration of disruption to residents' lives.
In the words of Rob Munns, head of sales and business development at specialist BFT Mastclimbing, the sight of residential buildings enshrouded in scaffolding for no good reason can exact a toll on the mental health and well-being of the residents, compounding the challenges already posed by the cladding crisis.
The unpopularity of scaffold "shrouds'' among residents is understandable, as one resident from an east London tower noted. Having one's home wrapped in plastic during cladding remediation adds an extra layer of stress to an already demanding situation, particularly when residents are keenly aware of the fire risks posed by unsafe cladding.
Considering MCWPs for Your Recladding Project?
Mast climbers have gained widespread popularity due to their proven safety and efficiency advantages. As the construction industry recognised the benefits mast climbers can bring to their projects, be sure to keep them on your radar when you're planning for a cladding remediation project.
Mast climbers have consistently demonstrated their capacity to significantly enhance the efficiency of cladding projects while upholding a commitment to social responsibility, making MCWPs the smarter choice whenever they are a feasible option. To determine whether your cladding project leverages the advantages of mast climbers, consult with a vertical access expert. They can help you assess your project's unique needs and develop a tailored access solution that aligns perfectly with your project requirements.
All BFT mast climbers comply with Work at Height, Manual Handling, and Health & Safety regulations, ready to deploy from two national distribution centres in Bedfordshire and Manchester. Don't settle for less when better options are available. Speak with an MCWP expert today and discover how mast climbers can help.