Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Arconic curbs sale of panels used on burnt London high-rise

Published:Tuesday | June 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The scorched facade of Grenfell Tower in London.

American cladding maker Arconic on Monday said that it is discontinuing global sales of one type of composite panelling for use on high-rise buildings following the deadly fire at a London apartment tower as Britain's government sought to manage a burgeoning fire-safety crisis.

Arconic, formerly known as Alcoa Inc, said in a statement that Reynobond PE would no longer be sold for use in high-rise buildings. The company also makes another style of cladding Reynobond FR which is fire-resistant.

"We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower," Arconic said in a statement. "We will continue to fully support the authorities as they investigate this."

The cladding - panels widely used to insulate buildings and improve their appearance may have been a factor in rapidly spreading the June 14 blaze that killed at least 79 people trapped in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower.

The United Kingdom government is scrambling to test panels similar to those used at the destroyed tower, hoping to better understand the national fire safety implications.

Arconic's announcement came as Britain's government announced that 75 buildings had failed cladding combustibility tests in 26 local authority areas. Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said every building tested so far had failed.

"The fact that all samples so far have failed underlines the value of the testing programme and the vital importance of submitting samples urgently," Javid said. "I am concerned about the speed at which samples are being submitted."

Fire officials are checking the safety of thousands of buildings nationwide amid fears by residents that what happened at Grenfell could happen to them.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from four high-rises in north London after inspectors found myriad safety problems that included faulty fire doors and troubles with gas-pipe insulation as well as the cladding.

Hospitals and school buildings across Britain will also have their exterior cladding tested for flammability as part of an urgent nationwide push to increase fire safety.

Meanwhile, Britain's government says it is donating £1 million (US$1.27 million) to the charitable response to the fatal fire.

Javid said the figure recognises that small charities and not-for-profit organisations are making a contribution to the relief effort.

The government is also giving £48,000 (US$61,000) to support an assistance venue, the Westway Center.

The funding is in addition to £5 million (US$6.4 million) provided for the Grenfell Tower Residents' Discretionary Fund.

- AP