Combustible Cladding Ban: A Proactive Approach

In 2018, Sapphire commissioned Exova Warringtonfire to rigorously test multiple classes of materials to ensure we were able to provide our clients with the highest safety standard of product available. Following the eventual ban on cladding materials Class B and below, we have been exploring the recent decision to use Class A & A2 non-combustible materials on all buildings over 18m.

Committed as ever to our proactive ambition, we have been investigating whether further can be done to guarantee resident safety, as well as limit costly fire damage.

Balcony Fire Case Study: A Comparison

Case study 1

Building: The Lighthouse (2008), 19 Floors

Location: Northern Quarter, Manchester

Cause of Fire: Unattended food cooking internally

Balconies: Unknown

The fire damaged 4 properties on the 9th floor (where it broke out internally) and caused smoke damage on floors 10 and 11 externally. The level of destruction can easily be viewed from the photos above. The balconies were constructed with no soffits & combustible materials.

Case study 2

Building: The Norton (2015), 11 Floors

Location: Greenwich Peninsula, London

Cause of Fire: Cigarette

Balconies: Sapphire Ltd

A discarded cigarette ignited a piece of furniture on a lower balcony, causing a fire to break out. The fire was contained on the balcony and caused only minor smoke damage to the balcony above. The balconies were constructed using combustible materials (Class C) and aluminium soffits. The soffit contained the fire and eradicated any falling debris, limiting damage to the surrounding balconies.

Post-fire: The balcony was quickly and easily replaced.

The norton, Greenwich

Summary: Soffits for Safety

Benefits of Aluminium Soffits

  • Limit the supply of oxygen to the fire
  • Prevent burning debris from falling below
  • Prevent embers from igniting surrounding balconies
  • Aluminium reflects & disperses heat

Over 30 balcony fires have been reported in London alone over the past 2 years. We can’t control whether fires start, but we can control our choice in construction materials. We are dedicated to consumer safety and understand the severity & damaging effects a fire can have on all those involved. We fully advocate the use of soffits when constructing balconies, primarily for their fire resistance strength, but also for their enhanced aesthetics and drainage capabilities.