Anxious over cladding on your property? With the cladding crisis in full swing, here is the difference between ACM and non-ACM.
The recent cladding crisis in the UK is putting hundreds and thousands of UK property owners out of pocket. They are leaseholders for flats in high-rise buildings, flats that have been rendered valueless by the cladding that has been used on the exterior walls.
Cladding has come under the harsh surveillance of the public and media eyes in recent years. After the incident of Grenfell Tower, when seventy-two members of the public lost their lives, cladding needs to be fire-safe. This might sound basic, but you would be surprised at the number of flats that have been built with unsafe cladding.
The cladding which blazed so easily in the Grenfell Tower incident has been identified as ACM cladding. Let us talk about the difference between it and non-ACM cladding in more detail.
What is ACM Cladding?
ACM stands for Aluminium Composite Material. ACM cladding is created by pressing two sheets of aluminium composite metals together, then filling the cavity between them with other materials. In the case of Grenfell Tower, the cladding was filled with polyethylene plastic material. This is a flammable material that helped the fire to spread faster than it would have, had there been no cladding.
Government safety inspectors regularly check buildings for fire safety. Prior to Grenfell, those checks were restricted to the inside of your property. The government quickly introduced the EWS – or External Wall System – guidelines. These required any property owner to seek approval for their external cladding or remove/replace it if it is non-compliant.
ACM panels can be fire safe when they contain other materials, but not when they contain plastics. If your building has ACM cladding, you will need to remove it. If you are a leaseholder in a building, you must pressure your proprietor into having these checks carried out before you can sell your property. The process of removing or replacing cladding is known as cladding remediation. You must hire a specialist firm with the skills and expertise needed to perform the assessment and the remediation process.
What is Non-ACM Cladding?
When reviewing the problem with flammable cladding, the government found that several other types of cladding used in high-rise flats were also faulty. Non-ACM cladding refers to any unsafe cladding that is not made from Aluminium Composite Materials. The leading contender for flammability in non-ACM cladding is HPL cladding.
High Pressure Laminate Panels were identified as a risk factor for fire safety in high-rise flats. They are made by layering sheets of wood with paper and resin. These layers are then pressurised and heated until they become solid. They spread flames in a similar fashion, and with similar velocity, to ACM cladding.
In response to all the above, the government had tests carried out by the Building Research Establishment to see which materials released the most heat. ACM, ACM PE, and HPL cladding were all chief culprits. You can view the other results here.
What are the Differences Between ACM and Non-ACM Cladding?
The main differences between the two lies in the materials used to make them. While ACM uses aluminium composites, HPL uses wood, resin, paper, and other compressed layers to create the same effect. Both are highly flammable; both failed the government safety checks dramatically. Unfortunately, the only way to tell which type of cladding you have on your high-rise building is to have a qualified inspector look. It takes a trained eye to spot the difference.