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Mon April 06 2020

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Student landlord takes action on HPL cladding

26 Feb Unite Group, landlord to 74,000 students across the UK, is set to spend up to £20m over the next two years replacing cladding due to fire risk.

A Unite Students property in Bristol
A Unite Students property in Bristol

Unite has already removed aluminium composite materials (ACM) cladding from its tall buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. Now it is turning its attention to high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, also now deemed unsuitable, and found that 16 of its buildings are partially clad in it.

In a statement today Unite Group said: “Fire safety is a critical part of our health and safety strategy. Our fire safety plans involve engagement with our primary authority, the Avon Fire & Rescue Service, and local fire brigades as well as input from independent fire safety experts who conduct annual assessments of our portfolio and have confirmed that all our properties are safe for occupation.

“We also work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) to ensure our properties comply with emerging guidelines. As part of this, following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have removed aluminium composite materials (ACM) cladding from our buildings where needed, in line with Government advice. We take fire safety extremely seriously and are at the forefront of new improvements, being one of the first to act on ACM advice. More recently, and in accordance with the government's Building Safety Advice of 20 January 2020, we are undertaking a thorough review of the use of high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding on our properties.

“We have identified 19 properties with HPL across our estate, all but three of which are greater than 18 metres in height. The majority of buildings have minimal HPL, covering less than a quarter of the buildings.

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“Tests of the materials and cladding systems are being carried out for each property. All our buildings have been confirmed safe for students to occupy by independent fire safety experts. In addition, special measures have been put in place at the affected buildings, including increased building patrols by staff and additional alarm measures, and we will remove this cladding where it fails to meet the new requirements.

“We are committed to doing what's right, in line with our values. We do not expect there to be any building closures related to these works.

“The cost of replacing the HPL cladding is expected to be £15-20m (Unite share), which will form part of our capex programme for investment properties. We expect this spend to be incurred over the next 12-24 months, with activity prioritised according to our risk assessments. If we are successful in claims under build contracts, the cost for Unite could be lower than this figure.”


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