Last updated: 04 September 2017
This information is for all One Manchester customers following the fire at Grenfell Tower in London on 14 June 2017. Our aim is to be open and honest by sharing this information with all of our customers who may have concerns, some of which will be more relevant to those living in the high-rise blocks (buildings higher than 6 storeys).
The type of rainscreen cladding which is being investigated is an aluminium composite material (ACM) made up of two aluminium cover sheets and a core of composite material containing polyethylene (a type of plastic).
We own and manage 17 high-rise blocks in Hulme and east Manchester.
16 of these have been clad with a material made from aluminium composite as described above. The blocks have differing levels of this type of cladding; some have this cladding on one side only and some on all 4 sides.
The remaining block, St. George’s Court, has clay cladding, and is not affected by the testing as clay is a non-combustible material.
No. The rainscreen cladding system is made up of two elements. Firstly, the ACM cladding itself (which you can see on the outside of the building) and secondly the insulation used between the cladding and the original exterior of the building. The combination of these two elements is important.
There are two different types of cladding used on our high-rise blocks: ACM with polyethylene core (known as PE) and ACM with a fire retardant polyethylene filler (known as FR). The FR cladding was used on blocks which were clad at a later date when new cladding products were available. The insulation used on all of our high-rise blocks is a mineral rock wool, which is a non-combustible product. This is different to the type used on Grenfell Tower.
Samples of the ACM cladding from all 16 of our high-rise blocks were sent for testing to the Building Research Establishment (BRE), which is acting on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Like all others across the country tested to date, the samples of the ACM cladding from our blocks failed the initial tests which looked at the ACM tile only.
Further testing then took place at the BRE which looked at the whole cladding system, including the combinations of tile and insulation material. A recent article by the BBC is helpful to understand more about the cladding tests being undertaken by the BRE. Further information on the testing can also be found on the government website here.
The cladding systems made up of ACM with polyethene core (PE) with non-combustible mineral wool insulation did not pass the second round of tests. This means we will go ahead as planned with the replacement of cladding on the following blocks: Worsley Court, Platt Court, Westcott Court, Duffield Court, Fulton Court, Hornchurch Court, Meredith Court, Ledburn Court, Hopton Court, Royce Court, Hulme Court, Bickerdike Court, Thomas Court.
The cladding systems made up of ACM with a fire retardant polyethylene filler with mineral wool insulation adequately resisted the spread of fire to the standards required by current Building Regulations. We are now seeking additional verification from the GM Fire and Rescue Service, as well as our own independent assessors, that the cladding on the following blocks can remain in place: Abbey Court, Cornwall Court, Cundiff Court.
At the time we installed this cladding system (ACM cladding and insulation combined), we believed that it was safe, as it complied with building regulations.
There is now some debate about whether the building regulations are clear. Given that this type of product has been used by many local authorities across the country, on residential blocks but also on schools, universities and hospitals, what is clear is that we were not on our own in believing it was safe.
The safety of our customers is our highest priority and we would never invest in a product that we thought would put our customers at risk.
The government has now announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. It is expected that the review will present an interim report before the end of the year, and a final report no later than spring 2018. You can find out more about this on the government website here.
Between 2009 and 2013 the exteriors of the high-rise blocks were overclad with rainscreen cladding. The high-rise blocks were built in the 1970’s and due to the age of the buildings they were not wind or water tight, meaning that they were cold and damp places to live for the residents. In addition, the concrete was suffering carbon decay and concrete was spalling (flaking or crumbling) off the buildings.
The rainscreen cladding and insulation were added, along with new windows to secure and protect the concrete exterior and to keep the warmth in.
At this stage there is no clear guidance on what cladding systems provide the best and safest solution. We have therefore taken the decision to halt the removal of cladding until we have clearer guidance and the results of the latest tests (see Q3). This does not mean that we will stop our own review into the most suitable options, and we will continue to do this with our appointed contractor and other specialist teams who are advising us, as well as working with our housing colleagues across Greater Manchester.
Where cladding has been removed at low levels on some of our blocks, we have replaced it with a temporary cement board and this work has now been completed.
We aim to minimise disruption as much as possible, whilst ensuring the safety of our residents remains our priority. We will continue to keep you updated as things develop and as soon as we have more information.
This hasn’t been agreed yet. We are looking into all options and will be working with our Board and appointed contractor, as well as reviewing the outcome of the further testing detailed in Q3 above, to determine the most suitable options. We will also be commissioning an independent validation of the options to ensure that we make the correct decisions.
We are considering products such as stone, cement, clay, brick and plain metal as well as the category 1 ACM with a fire retardant polyethylene filler outlined above, which has now passed the second round of testing. Each block is unique and will be reviewed on an individual basis. We will communicate with residents in each block once we have more detailed information, as the approach will be different at each block depending upon the test results, how much cladding there is and where it is.
No. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have now completed checks at the 16 high-rise blocks clad with ACM. They are satisfied that the appropriate fire safety measures are in place, however due to the nature of the cladding, they have advised that for the moment the ‘stay put’ policy should be changed to a ‘get out’ policy.
Therefore until further notice, our advice is as follows:
If you become aware of a fire in your property or anywhere in your block and you are able to do so, you should get out of the building and stay out.
We have provided evacuation information to all our residents living in high-rise accommodation and a copy is displayed in communal areas and on our website. In the case of a full building evacuation, it is important that the evacuation is done in an orderly manner.
We are installing fire alarms at all of our high-rise blocks and this work is under way. A fire alarm will be fitted at all high-rise blocks by the end of the year.
Until the fire alarm is fitted, the 24 hour, 7 day a week ‘wakeful watch’ will remain in place to act as a human fire alarm. They carry an air horn and if a fire is discovered, they will sound the air horn, call 999 and begin to evacuate the building.
The guard is not a security guard for the building and will therefore not deal with any other issues that may arise. Other issues should be raised with your caretaker or via our contact centre team in the usual way.
Each flat already has a smoke detector to alert you if a fire starts in your home. The smoke detector is hard-wired, meaning that it does not rely on batteries. However, there is a battery back up, in the event of a power cut.
The ‘stay put’ policy was in place because the construction of the high-rise blocks is designed to contain a fire within each individual flat – this is known as ‘compartmentation’. The spread of fire is restricted by dividing the building into separate compartments, which are divided from one another by concrete compartment walls and floors. The flat also has a fire door which is designed to contain a fire for a minimum of half an hour.
If a fire starts within an individual flat, it should be contained within that flat and therefore other flats and communal areas should be protected.
Each high-rise block has an annual Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) of communal areas.
Our caretakers complete weekly building checks.
Neighbourhood officers complete monthly checks.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have completed checks at the 16 high-rise blocks with aluminium composite cladding.
We commissioned an independent company to complete more detailed FRA’s (Type 3) in our high-rise blocks with a view to advising on Type 4 (the highest level).
Each flat has a fire door.
All blocks have fire doors to the bin chute rooms, stair lobbies and each landing; a fire directly against a door would take a minimum of 30 minutes to burn through.
All communal areas have a special coating on the walls and floors to limit the spread of flame. This coating is Class 0, which is in accordance with the building regulations.
Bin chutes have fire dampers that close automatically on detection of heat, to prevent the spread of flame/fire.
No. For your own safety, we would not advise you to try to tackle a fire yourself. There are many different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fire and incorrect use can make a situation worse and potentially put you in more danger. Fire extinguishers are mainly there to enable exit if it is blocked by fire rather than for tackling the fire itself.
Each of the caretakers’ rooms has at least one portable fire extinguisher and our caretakers are trained to use them.
Yes. We are currently undertaking a full and thorough review of additional safety measures in our high-rise blocks. We are working closely with our housing provider colleagues from across Greater Manchester, the GM Mayoral Office, local and central government as well as Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service to ensure that the highest standards of safety are maintained across the city.
We will take the necessary action to ensure the safety of our residents based on expert advice and the results of our internal review.
Each block with an external gate has a ‘key safe’ fitted. In the event of an emergency, immediate access to the emergency services or responders is available using a code that we have provided to them that they keep on their systems.
We have provided general guidance and some simple tips to all of our customers in the summer 2017 edition of Inspire Magazine and there is a more information on our website here about what you can do to prevent a fire starting in the first place.
If you have made any significant alterations to your property, please let us know so that we can check that the work has not had an effect on the compartmentation (outlined in question 10 above) which is designed to contain the fire in an individual flat.
We know that there can be changes to circumstances that affect individual residents or family situations within our high-rise blocks. We would ask you to tell us if there are changes that we need to be aware of, such as a deterioration of your health that has impacted your mobility, or someone in your household has had a baby.
Please tell us if there are any changes to your circumstances, so that we can help ensure your safety.
No. We have a programme in place to test all electrical equipment owned by One Manchester and all our properties have a full Electrical Condition Report every 5 Years. If any appliance becomes faulty an RCD or RCBO will switch off the power. Unfortunately testing all equipment is simply not feasible as there is no way we can manage what appliances residents bring into their homes.
This information is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.