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London’s Grenfell tower demonstrates dangers of combustible cladding: Swiss Re

15th December 2017 - Author: Staff Writer

London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy in June has highlighted the dangers of combustible exterior cladding on high rise buildings – which have since become a global concern for governments and reinsurers.

Grenfell Tower fire image via MetroSwiss Re Corporate Solutions has warned of the dangers of combustible exterior cladding on high rise buildings, after reinsurers picked up the tab for the London Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Protector Forsikring ASA of Norway, the insurer of the Grenfell Tower block in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said the tragic fire that occurred at the apartment block will cost it an estimated $31.8 million.

The Swiss reinsurance giant said the string of high profile fires that occurred in Dubai starting in 2012 and involving combustible exterior wall assemblies should have warned the reinsurance industry that additional large scale fires, including those with the potential to involve loss of life and catastrophic property damage, was likely inevitable.

One of the most prevalent hazards associated with any high-rise building is the potential for vertical fire spread.

The Swiss Re report said; “this potential exists due to fire‘s inherent behaviour of spreading rapidly through combustible material in a vertical array.

“Vertical fire spread was amplified at Grenfell due to the combustible cladding and the combustibility of the insulation and framing behind it.”

The 24 storey Grenfell Tower building, which contains 120 apartments, caught fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with the blaze rapidly spreading up the building and resulting in significant damage to the property, with a tragic loss of life and injury to residents.

Swiss Re has warned that all high-rise buildings should be evaluated for the existence of combustible exterior wall assemblies; “a severe fire hazard is likely to exist unless the exterior wall assembly including all components are non-combustible, or have passed comprehensive, full scale testing as outlined in a NPFA 285 or similar test.”

Risk Exposures to re/insurers from a combustible cladding fire include:

Property

  • Property owners – loss of property, business interruption
  • Contractors – loss of constructed value

Casualty

  • Property owners – allegations of improper maintenance, damage to adjacent
    properties, injuries to third parties
  • Property managers – allegations of improper maintenance
  • Contractors – allegations of faulty construction
  • Architects and engineers – allegations of improper design and/or specifications
  • Directors and Officers – allegations of decisions or knowledge of conditions
    leading to losses

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