Ministerial Working Group on building and fire safety

The third meeting of a Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, has taken place.

The meeting was chaired by Communities Secretary Angela Constance with Housing Minister Kevin Stewart. They were joined by Scottish Government officials and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

This group is overseeing a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks with an initial focus on high rise domestic buildings, following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London.

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The Group was updated on the latest actions being taken by the Scottish Government, local authorities, the fire and rescue service as well as other building owners across the country.

Checks so far by local authorities have found that:

No high rise domestic buildings owned by councils or housing associations have used ACM cladding.

30 of 32 local authorities have reported that ACM cladding has not been used on any privately owned high-rise domestic buildings. Edinburgh and Glasgow are completing their investigations and it was acknowledged this will take time due to the numbers involved. Scottish Government officials are in close contact with both local authorities and have offered additional assistance if required.

No Scottish local-authority owned school buildings above 18 metres have the type of cladding reported to have been used on the Grenfell tower – aluminium composite material (ACM) .

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14 local authorities have reported that a type of ACM which can be used appropriately has been used on a small number of low-rise schools. Checks are currently being carried out by local authorities and the fire brigade to ensure that all of these have been fitted in accordance with building regulations.

The Scottish Government has also requested information regarding universities and colleges including student accommodation. Initial indications are that there are no further issues expected.

All health boards have confirmed that none of their buildings use the cladding type reported to have been used on Grenfell Tower. However, additional checks have shown that 8 sites on the NHS estate – including Queen Elizabeth University Hospital - have used solid aluminium with A1 non-combustible fire rating material and mineral wool insulation.

Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board has been assured by Multiplex, the main contractor for the hospital construction, that the insulation material used in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow – Kingspan Kooltherm K15 Insulation Boards - were properly installed to meet building and fire safety regulations. This insulation is classified by the Building Regulations and is an acceptable product for use above 18 metres. We are confident this product has been used in a proper and safe manner in the hospital. Whilst this material was identified in recent media reports as being part of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower this was on less than 5% of Grenfell Tower and not the material that has been the focus of investigations.

It was reiterated that:

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Building standards systems and regulations for high rise domestic properties in Scotland means the type of product used on Grenfell Tower should not be used in their cladding systems.However, in some controlled circumstances specified by our building regulations, ACM can be used as part of the cladding systems of other buildings. Our building regulations specify that those cladding systems must meet the relevant technical requirements applicable in each case.

The group also:

Discussed its work plan including establishing a Scottish Government Building Standards Working Group to work with international experts on a review of building standards.

Intelligence continues to be gathered on the use of ACM in the cladding systems of buildings in Scotland. This is focused on any high-rise properties where people sleep overnight that have not already been captured by local authorities’ initial investigations and any other types of property where there are expected to be vulnerable people living.

Agreed that the next meeting of the group on the 9th August would include an in depth session to review evidence on automatic fire suppression systems including sprinklers.

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Discussed ongoing communication with stakeholders and agreed that sessions should be held with various organisations. The initial priority would be to meet with tenants representatives over the summer.

Was provided an update by The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who said an additional 600 operational assurance visits have been carried out since the Grenfell Tower fire – 300 since the last meeting of the working group - and more than 500 additional home fire safety visits to residents in high-rise buildings.

Agreed that consultation will take place in the autumn on common standards for smoke and fire alarms in housing bringing forward planned work and noted positive initial discussions with key partners in representing social landlords and local government.

Agreed that Scotland should be represented in the Expert Panel convened by the UK Government and Ministers will be writing to the UK Government to make that request.

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Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance said:

“The group met today to continue our thorough review of our regulations and take any action needed – both immediate and longer-term - to ensure the highest standards of building and fire safety is in place across Scotland.

“While we continue to be confident that we have stringent building and fire safety regulations we cannot afford to be in any way complacent. That is why our work programme is evidence-led and our focus is prioritised.

“Checks continue across Scotland by both local authorities and the fire brigade to assess buildings and reassure people that adequate fire protection measures are in place.

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“I’d like to reiterate my thanks to all local authorities, the fire and rescue service, housing associations and numerous other building owners across Scotland who continue to work extremely hard at the moment to reassure the public about the safety of their buildings.

“We’ll continue this partnership to ensure collectively we are doing our utmost to reassure members of the public of the safety of Scotland’s buildings.”