Flammable cladding is a global problem that has been underestimated until recent times. Architectural cladding describes several different combinations of construction panels used around the world. It was a widespread material for updating buildings for those who needed an effective way to update a home or building. It was not anticipated that cladding would become dangerous, cause loss of life, increase fire risk, and leave nothing but a terrible global legacy.
The use of cladding to reface buildings has occurred worldwide since the late 1990s. Many owners are unaware that the cladding their building has used is an issue until it starts causing problems. Unfortunately, many property owners have not recognized that it is better to tackle the problem immediately than do nothing and risk the consequences.
Not Tested or Rated for the Current Use
It is unknown how widespread combustible cladding is throughout the world. Since it was a cheap option, it was often used to increase profit for many construction projects. In some regions, the materials used in cladding were tested and approved for use in signage but not for widespread use as a building product. The cladding crisis is similar to the Asbestos crisis experienced in the construction industry. It was a cheap and effective product however the risks were initially unknown.
Loss of Life and Property Damage
Combustible cladding is a global problem that has already caused the loss of life and property. Some of the most significant global events related to flammable cladding occurred at the Lacrosse Apartments in Melbourne in 2014, the Torch Tower in Dubai 2015 and 2017, and the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017.
The Grenfell Tower disaster led to the death of 72 people who were trapped inside the 23-story structure. A kitchen fire spread through the building, mainly fueled by lethal polyethylene cladding. The multiple fires in the Torch Tower in Dubai did not result in fatalities due to engineering that allowed firefighters to work while residents safely evacuated.
Flats in Milan, Italy, also experienced a large fire that spread rapidly due to the cladding materials used in the building. As a result, investigators in cladding-related cases have concluded that cladding can turn fires into deadly blazes.
Additional Costs for Owners Beyond Cladding Removal
In many nations and regions plans have been put in place to fix the issues. For example, in Melbourne, Australia, the Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) has been created to oversee the removal of combustible cladding replacement with non-combustible alternatives. Property owners and managers are now responsible for updating a property of concern, even if they were not the originator of the issues.
In some nations such as Australia, the government may assist with the cost of cladding removal, however the cost to replace the cladding is the property owner’s responsibility. For a family who has put their savings into purchasing a property, finding the capital to cover the costs may be near impossible to do. For a small business, this could mean having to give up a property or close the business.
A group in the United Kingdom called the “Manchester Cladiators” (formed in 2019) is dedicated to directly addressing the cladding issue with Boris Johnson’s government. Their goal is to pressure government representatives to offer assistance to low-income homeowners.
Unsafe to Live in or Rent Out the Property
Property owners and managers struggling to repair a property face a challenge when living there or renting it out. Properties that have been deemed unsafe are impossible to rent. Living in the property is equally dangerous, but many homeowners still have to live in combustible cladding-faced homes due to a lack of options.
Vacant properties with combustible cladding are also risky. Since the cladding materials can quickly catch fire, many areas have employed people to patrol and watch for warning signs like smoke. These patrol people are at the cost to the property owner.
Selling Options are Limited or at a Loss
Not many people want to buy a cladding-covered home that will cost time and money to update. Property owners aware of combustible cladding may be required to disclose this at the time of sale, which could cause the deal to fall through. If there is an interested buyer for dangerous cladding covered property, the odds are high that there wouldn’t be much of a profit, and you may even see a loss in the sale of the property.
What You Can Do
Potential buyers for properties in areas at risk can pay to have a cladding inspection completed. However, it is possible to have an individual flat or home cleared of combustible cladding but still be in the proximity to a building where cladding is a hazard.
Property owners who request a cladding inspection often believe that the assessment covers any concern related to cladding. Unfortunately, cladding inspections will only relate to the specific property in question.
Many young investors are suffering financial difficulties because of the cost of cladding. If you know someone who’s faced with this problem, help might be available! Seek out local organizations which deal specifically in cladding concerns and check whether they have any resources that can assist your loved ones financially.
The building safety crisis is wreaking havoc with leaseholders’ finances and mental health. Many home owners have suffered severe stress as they worried about how dangerous their homes may be. Throughout the media, there are many sharing heartbreaking stories like those who felt suicidal because of sleepless nights caused by worry over possible hazards in their property, debilitating depression due do fear for loved ones’ wellbeing and financial burdens.
Recently, a 37-year-old man committed suicide due to the financial cost of the Glenfell Cladding scandal. The victim had four apartments in total that were impacted by this issue and fixing just one would have been £ 50k or more to fix the issues.
If this crisis has affected your mental health, you are not alone. Reach out to those that can help you through this difficult situation and get the support you need.