The supposedly fire-safe Vitracore G2 failed a safety test
UK cladding distributor disputes ‘highly misleading’ failed UAE safety test
The UK distributor of a cladding brand that failed a fire safety assessment in the UAE has disputed the test, describing it as “highly misleading”.
The Vitracore G2 product was seen as a fire-safe alternative for tall buildings and has been used as a replacement for the type of cladding in the UK that failed safety tests after the fatal Grenfell Tower fire.
The components of Vitracore G2, which is distributed by the firm Valcan, all have a rating of “limited combustibility” based on laboratory assessments. According to a BBC report, these ratings mean the cladding could be installed on a building without a full system test under British building regulations.
The product was made by Valcan’s parent company Fairview, based in Australia, in response to the 2014 fire at the Lacrosse building in Melbourne. Fairview developed Vitracore G2 as a fire-safe alternative to the flammable cladding which had been installed on the building.
However, a full system test known as BS-8414, which was carried out in Dubai last week, saw the cladding go up in flames.
The BS-8414 sees cladding fixed over an external wall system while a fire is lit underneath it to assess its combustibility.
The test was carried out by Exova Warringtonfire, an independent testing company, at its facility in Dubai. The UAE location was chosen because Exova’s European test centres have been overwhelmed with bookings from concerned manufacturers since the Grenfell fire.
Valcan has disputed the findings of the test, which was featured on the BBC’s Newsnight programme last week, saying there were “ulterior motives” behind its commissioning, which the firm said was carried out by competitors in the industry.
In a lengthy statement published on Valcan’s website on Monday, the firm accused competitors, Kingspan, who commissioned the test, of trying to “falsely discredit” their product.
But Valcan said the Vitracore G2 panels used in the assessment “were not installed as per the manufacturer’s guidelines” and added that the Newsnight report in fact showed that, while the product melted where the fire began, it “did not continue to burn or spread”.
The firm added that the product had been previously tested by Exova Warringtonfire in November 2017.
“The panel did not spread flame, and temperature results were safely below requirements. This test of Vitracore G2 demonstrates that the panels will not cause a fire to spread through the exterior or interior of a high-rise building,” it said.
A spokesman for Kingspan described their test as "rigorous" and said that "any systems being installed on tall buildings should have to pass this test".
"The test failure demonstrates that systems combining non-combustible and limited combustibility products can still fail the BS 8414 test and therefore may not be safe for installation on tall buildings," the spokesman added.
Adrian Buckmaster, from UK cladding company Tretraclad, told The National that the test appeared to show the company was using up to six-times the amount of a flammable glue in its product than it originally sent for testing.
Mr Buckmaster said that the test might have been unfair to Valcan because they were not given an opportunity to check the materials or how the panels were constructed in the test.
“But if it is true that they have a glue problem then that is a problem that they must resolve,” he added.
While Valcan and parent company Fairview operate in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Mr Buckmaster said it was “likely” the product, which was first marketed in 2016, could be used in the UAE in the future.
He said: “It will end up on a building in the UAE because someone will see the specification and see it meets all the requirements. We do not absolutely know that it is safe at this stage.”