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Wed February 24 2021

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ACM cladding replacement progress: 45 towers yet to see any action

22 Jan The post-Grenfell cladding replacement programme continues to make steady progress but there remain 45 high-rise buildings where remediation work has not even started.

ACM cladding on Grenfell Tower before the fire
ACM cladding on Grenfell Tower before the fire

The good news is that all high-rise buildings in the social sector and student buildings are now fully remediated or have work underway to remove unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, according to latest statistics from the Ministry of Housing1.

The private sector is not doing quite so well, although 82% (176) of private sector buildings over 18-metres have either completed or started remediation. Of these, 89 (42%) have had their ACM cladding removed.

In total, as at 31 December 2020, of the 462 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings identified with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations, remediation has either completed or started on 417 buildings (90% of all identified buildings).

During 2020 replacement work started on 159 buildings, compared to 90 in 2019 and 111 in 2018.

There are now 297 buildings (64% of all identified buildings in England) that have had their ACM cladding systems stripped off – an increase of 30 since the end of November; 216 (47% of all buildings) have fully completed remediation, with three buildings completed during December.

Of those with ACM cladding remaining, a further 120 have started remediation. Of the 45 (10%) of buildings yet to start, 13 were only identified in 2020, while seven are vacant so present no risk to resident safety.

The issue with cladding emerged after a fire caused the death of 72 residents of the high-rise Grenfell Tower in London on 14th June 2017. It soon emerged that the cladding system fitted in a recent refurbishment had acted as an accelerant, speeding the passage of smoke from floor to floor. The Ministry of Housing set up its Building Safety Programme to oversee the replacement of similar cladding systems across the country and the reform of the regulatory system for building works.

The government has banned combustible materials in the external walls of high rise residential buildings of 18 metres and over, and is consulting on extending the ban threshold to 11 metres height.

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The Building Safety Programme also publishes monthly statistics setting out progress, or lack of, the cladding replacement programme in England.

These show that at the end of December 2020, 90% (417) of all identified high-rise residential and publicly-owned at-risk buildings in England had either completed or started remediation work to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding – an increase of 31 buildings since the end of November 2020.

Most high-rise buildings with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet building regulations yet to be remediated are concentrated around urbanised areas England, notably Manchester and Greater London

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP said that the latest statistics “show that – despite the pandemic – significant progress has continued to have been made with remediation work either complete or on site on around 95% of buildings, rising to 100% in all social or student high rise buildings.”

He said: “This is a big step forwards. While there is still more to do, we are helping make the highest risk buildings with dangerous cladding safer, more quickly.”

Building safety minister Lord (Stephen) Greenhalgh, a former leader Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “Building owners are responsible for making sure that their buildings, and the people who live in them, are safe. However, some need to do more and it’s unacceptable a minority are yet to start work. We are in contact with the remaining buildings where remediation has not started and we are clear if work does not take place urgently we will take further enforcement action.”

1.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/954319/Building_Safety_Data_Release_December_2020.pdf

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