Aluminium cladding & fire safety

The use of Aluminium Composite Panels / Material (ACP/M) has been in the news a lot lately. Large scale fires such as the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 and the Docklands fire in Melbourne in 2014 have called the use of Aluminium cladding into question.

In both of those fires ACM cladding was a cause of why the fire spread so rapidly and burned so ferociously.

Some buildings in New Zealand, mainly high rise buildings in Wellington and Auckland have been identified as at risk.

The Grenfel Tower fire was made worse by the fact the building wasn’t compliant with fire regulations. The building had no working sprinkler system and blocked fire exits. The use of the wrong ACM cladding was a concern.

Is Aluminium Composite Material cladding safe?

ACM is made from a core material with an Aluminium skin. The Aluminum skin can also be coated with rust-proof coatings and a variety of finishes.

Both fires and the buildings in New Zealand that have been identified as at risk use a type of ACM cladding that has a highly combustible polyethylene core. While this type of Aluminium cladding is safe for small scale uses such as signage it should not be used on a large scale for cladding a large or high rise building.

There are many manufacturers of ACP panel and a particular manufacturer may offer a number of different panel systems. None can be assumed to be identical. The fire performance of a combustible external cladding system will depend on a number of factors including the cladding material, fixing and sealing details, the presence or absence of cavities beneath the cladding, the fire performance of associated insulation and weather membranes, and the nature of the ignition source.

What type of cladding does Architectural Facades Co. use?

The main type of cladding used by Architectural Facades Co. is Alpolic/FR Aluminium Composite Panel manufactured by Mitsubishi Chemicals, Japan.

Alpoilic/FR is a fire-rated ACM composed of aluminium skins and a fire-retardant core (non-combustible mineral filled core).

Alpolic/FR contains over 70% non-combustible materials within it’s core.

Alpolic/FR, has been tested to the National fire protection agency’s verification NFPA 285, and passed all requirements and is classified as an acceptable solution under the NZ building code for fire rated cladding systems.

Read the National Fire Protection Association letter about Alpoic/FR and building standards.