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Home / External Cladding Fire Test

External Cladding Fire Test

CMTS is authorised to conduct BS 8414 testing, which evaluates the fire resistance of a building’s outside cladding. CMTS engineers conduct BS 8414 fire tests, in which an external cladding system is examined for its total fire protection rather than merely individual building materials.

External Cladding Fire Test Overview

The tragic Grenfell Tower incident on June 14, 2017, highlighted the need for external cladding fire testing for residential and commercial construction. When the 1970s tower block was renovated between 2012 and 2016, external cladding composed of aluminium composite material (ACM) was installed.

Without performing an external cladding fire test on the outer wall installed in Grenfell Tower, the aluminium composite material’s exterior has been involved in the huge flames that initially started in one of the residential units’ kitchens. After the external cladding fire test was performed, the exterior wall consisting of aluminium composite material was found to be a substance that can quickly spread the fire.

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy, a skyscraper fire that occurred in the United Kingdom in 2017, horrified the lives of millions of people. The tragedy has made the communities especially entrepreneurs aware of how crucial it is to do an external cladding fire test in compliance with BS 8414.

BS 8414 External Cladding System Fire Performance

BS 8414 test technique is used to evaluate the design of an exterior cladding system. Buildings undergo external cladding fire test compliance to the BS 8414 standard to imitate a flame blowing out of a window and expose an external cladding system to a massive fire. The BS 8414 standard is divided into two sections which are BS 8414-1 and BS 8414-2.

  • BS 8414-1 – examines the Fire performance of external cladding systems. An evaluation procedure for external cladding systems that are not load-bearing and are installed on a building’s brick face. BS 8414-1 is also applied for external cladding fire test insulation and rain-screen cladding systems. BS 8414-1 is commonly performed to evaluate older concrete-built buildings.

  • BS 8414-2 – discusses the Fire performance of external cladding systems in a standard. The BS 8414-2 standard explained the procedure for outer cladding systems that are not load-bearing and are attached to and supported by a structural steel frame. BS 8414-2 is typically used in new construction using contemporary building supplies.

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How Is The External Cladding Fire Test Conducted?

The external cladding fire test conducted in compliance with the BS 8414 standard is a disciplined examination of the blaze performance of building external wall cladding together with rainscreen cladding. Cladding fire testing will be evaluated using a rig. The experiment rig was made to look like a towering structure with multiple levels. When doing an external cladding fire test, various stages will be conducted:

1. Height indicators will be placed alongside the test rig. While at the bottom, there is an opening that resembles how a fire escapes from a tall building’s window. Since fire needs oxygen to grow, it will always be drawn to a window. Once the fire has been ignited at the bottom of the test rig, a period of 2 minutes will be given so that the flames can spread. 60 minutes are allocated for this external cladding fire test. Following that, the outer cladding systems fire testing has two main phases which are 30-minute and 60-minute observations.

2. Criteria 1 requires a 30-minute observation. When the fire resistance testing of a building’s outside wall cladding, 30 minutes are provided for the blaze to burn while measurements are being taken of the temperature of the materials, how high the fire spreads, how it affects the items surrounding it, and how it spreads, among other factors. The flame cannot reach 600 ℃ and the second floor as stated by the wall line in the early 15 minutes during the cladding fire testing. When the flame reaches this temperature or the second floor, the examination is terminated and is classified as a failure.

3. Criteria 2 require observation for 60 minutes. The observer will extinguish the flames within the test rig after the external cladding fire test has been going on for 30 minutes, and the test apparatus will then be kept standing for another 30 minutes. Observers will investigate what will happen to the exterior cladding systems following the post-construction extinguishment at that time. In addition, experts will analyze yet if the fire will flare up again, whether there will be falling particles, or if the utilized outer cladding contains burning material.

The Processes Of Exterior Cladding Fire Test

1
Gathering Requirement
The client will begin to consult with experts who conduct external cladding fire testing. Following that, the customer will schedule a rig to perform a flame inspection on the external cladding system. At this point, the expert will also request from the client a drawing of the system to be examined that includes the materials involved. Based on the information collected from the client, the engineer will calculate the project's timetable based on its material. Additionally, the precise measurements of the test rig will be provided so that the client may supply the building materials following the size of the rig that will be used.
2
The Cladding System's Placement Onto The Test Rig
The customer will immediately get the metal frame from the company performing the fire test. The metal frame consists of an 8metre high L-shaped wall with a complete system on to it. Including cavity barriers, insulation, fixtures and fittings, and cladding. Simultaneously, the client will receive instructions and help from professionals on how to install the wall systems into the constructed rig. To monitor temperatures during the flame test, outer and interior thermocouples are positioned at levels 1 and 2 in the test rig.
3
Placing The Combustion Chamber
A hollow area known as the shelter shape is positioned at the base of the test rig. Large wooden cribs that measure 1metre deep, 1metre tall, and 1.5metre wide will be arranged in the shape of a shelter in large quantity. We will utilize this wooden crib to create a large flame during the external cladding fire test.
4
Ignited A Flame In The Crib
The combustion chamber is lighted to signal the start of the test. Experts have a set of thermocouples that are situated 2.5 meters above the burn chamber and 2 meters above the burn. The first pair of thermocouples can be compared to the building's first floor, while the second set, measuring 2.5 meters, is the building's second level.
5
The First-30 Minute Observation
The external cladding fire test begins when the thermocouple level 1 reaches 200 degrees, indicating that the flame has progressed to the point where the test is being conducted. The observers are measuring for fire spread from that point up towards level 2. The flame was allowed to burn for 30 minutes. However, the flame examination will be terminated if the blaze spread exceeds above the apparatus at any time during the test duration and if there is a risk to the safety of personnel or impending damage to equipment. The device releases 4500 megajoules (MJ) of heat in total for 30 minutes at a peak rate of 3+/- 0.5 megawatts. 
6
A Second Observation Will Be Carried Out
The crib is extinguished after 30 minutes of the ongoing outside cladding fire test. For a further 30 minutes, the rig is observed. However, if all visible burning has stopped and measured temperatures have been dropping for 10 minutes, the monitoring will be terminated. Therefore, if the test period lasts the full 60 minutes, any flame embers are put out to signal the test's finish. 
7
Await Cooling Of The External Cladding System
Following the completion of the external cladding fire test, the cladding will be left for at least one day to cool. Because the state of the outer wall is extremely hot and unsafe, an inspection cannot be performed quickly. 
8
The Post-Fire Inspection Process
After confirming that the outer cladding system is entirely safe and no longer flammable, the examiners will undertake a post-fire check. The building exterior cladding system shall be examined for damage such as melting, deformation, and delamination but not smoke staining or discoloration.
9
The Creation Of A Report
The client will have access to the visual data from the completed external cladding fire test after the test has concluded. For the client, the provider of the fire test will produce a graph in a spreadsheet outlining the temperature trends during the test. In the end, specialists produced a report that contains data. The bs 8414 test report, which details the build-up as it was tested, will be given to the client. The report includes photographs of the setup, the test, and the subsequent teardown. 
10
Obtain The Certificate 
If the exterior system pass for the evaluation, the certification will be issued. However, if the flame inspection of the outer wall system does not meet BS 8414 specifications, no certificate will be given.
What Happens If I Pass An External Cladding Fire Test?
Obtain Certification

Every time an external cladding fire test is conducted, a BS 8414 report is produced to provide documentation of the tested material and its performance in the given circumstances. The certification would be awarded if the exterior system that undergoes the external cladding fire test satisfies all of the stated specifications. The certificate obtained can demonstrate the validity of the outside system that will be employed by the building.

Maintain Compliance

To maintain compliance with fire safety equipment regulations, an exterior cladding fire test is essential. One of the regulations that must be fulfilled is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005. Every company or structure must conduct a fire safety assessment following the law and take the necessary yet critical steps to meet these preparation levels. Any of these faults will be discovered and taken care of during the inspection of the outside cladding systems, ensuring that your company complies.

Cost-Saving 

An external cladding fire test is reasonably priced. Just think of the money you would save by having a cladding system that is compliant with the regulation and is functioning properly. Do not let a minor fire become a major one. Proper fire safety equipment and procedures can reduce the intensity of a possible disaster to a minor inconvenience. In addition to property damage, a wildfire can result in the loss of valuable data and perhaps the collapse of your entire company due to the high expense of repairs. Installing fire-tested cladding systems can enable you to save money for any modest maintenance that could be required after a flame.

What Happens If I fail An External Cladding Fire Test?
Non-Certified 

As is common knowledge, construction must adhere to existing security rules. For exterior wall systems that have completed an external cladding fire test, but the report's results indicate that the material employed can speed the spread of fire, the test will be considered a failure. The report will state that the materials employed in the external cladding fire test do not fulfill the BS 8414 requirements. Consequently, no certificate will be given out.

Costs A Lot Of Money

It will cost pricier if the building's outside walls that have undergone external cladding fire test are found to not satisfy the standards that have been set and are considered to have failed the test. This is because property owners must seek guidance from professionals regarding the best course of action to take to guarantee that all building materials used are secure. The facility owner will then pay additional costs for fire testing service and replacement of new exterior cladding systems.

Notices of punishment and penalties

The property owner may be fined or punished if the outside cladding systems utilized do not adhere to the safety standards that have been established. The local authority has the right to bring legal action in the Magistrates Court against anyone who performs construction activity in disobedience of the building code. Furthermore, the local authorities can file enforcement notices on building owners who require the modification or elimination of structures that violate the regulations. As a result, you must undertake an external cladding fire test.

What Should I Do If The Exterior Cladding Fire Test Fails?

Property owners who had a failure in the external cladding fire test should take the following actions, under the Specialist Panel’s recommendations:

1. Consult with experienced fire testing service providers to determine what repairs are required to guarantee the building’s safety. This fire test guidance could need to look at the mixture of materials utilized in the outer cladding system, as well as if the construction of the property satisfies several other sections of the functional requirements of the building code.

2. Tower owners must use a reputable fire testing service that has performed many external cladding fire tests. Obtaining an external cladding fire test from a professional service ensures that the restoration work on the outside wall system is carried out following the guidelines that have been formed.

3. Structure owners must take precautions when replacing the coating system because it may influence other wall elements, including the entire structure and the fire integrity of the building. As a result, it’s crucial to check that the structure has fire protection and to routinely get fire testing services.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the type of building cladding?

Wood, glass, aluminium solid sheet, zinc cladding, aluminium composite panels, stainless steel, natural stones, concrete, terracotta, high-pressure laminates, copper cladding, fiber cement board cladding, and Corian cladding are some of the cladding systems utilized by high-rise buildings nowadays.

New products that are functional, inexpensive, and attractive have been achieved by technological growth in wall systems. Among them are:

  • High-strength hollow block - utilized geopolymers which help to reduce construction load.

  • Smart walling - comprised of faceted fiberglass rosettes that open and shut in response to the warmth of the cladding.

  • Double screen cladding - UV light-generated free radicals from the surfaces neutralize any present pollutants in the air.

  • Dynamic facade - It alters itself to the shifting locations of the sun, changing lighting conditions, and functional requirements.

How does cladding pose a risk?

A building's outer cladding system can propagate flames to all building spaces. Based on the results of the external cladding fire test, the examination revealed two primary elements that can allow this:

  • Flammable components - Fire testing on exterior cladding systems demonstrates the exposure of building materials that contain combustible components, such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) or polyurethane (PUR), when a fire is ignited on the wall cladding, the spread of fire will develop at a rapid speed. This can happen due to a fire breaking out from one of the windows or openings, through ventilation shafts, or from an outside fire.

  • Insulation - For the insulation to be able to circulate underneath the weatherproof cladding panels, rain screen cladding systems must also have an open cavity. Furthermore, this can be harmful in a blaze since it provides a funnel allowing the flames to grow vertically through the structure.

Which exterior cladding is considered dangerous?

Not all exterior cladding products on the market fall into the unsafe category. Unluckily, the external cladding fire test showed that 3 different outside wall types do indeed appear on the list:

  • Aluminium Composite Material - commonly used because it can be utilized precisely, it's light, and is available in a variety of shades and textures but contains highly combustible components.

  • High-Pressure Laminate - discovered to be quite hazardous, as wooden or compressed paper cladding panels will surely burst into flames.

  • Metal Composite Materials - The utilization of zinc, copper, or steel in metal composite materials cladding brings further concerns for the authorities.

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