As lawsuits move forward in London’s June 14 Grenfell Tower fire, U.S. reporters and agencies are examining U.S. buildings for cladding issues as well.
After the Grenfell fire, the British government found samples of cladding material used on 75 buildings failed combustibility tests.
“The International Building Code adopted by the U.S. requires more stringent fire testing of materials used on the sides of buildings taller than 40 feet. However, states and cities can set their own rules, said Keith Nelson, senior project architect with Intertek, a worldwide fire testing organization,” according to an Associated Press story.
The Associated Press found a U.S. company, Arconic, promoting that shimmering aluminum panels were used in the city-owned Cleveland Browns NFL stadium, an Alaskan high school and Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel.
“Those same panels — Reynobond composite material with a polyethylene core — also were used in the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London. British authorities say they’re investigating whether the panels helped spread the blaze that ripped across the building’s outer walls, killing at least 80 people.
“The panels, also called cladding, accentuate a building’s appearance and also improve energy efficiency. But they are not recommended for use in buildings above 40 feet because they are combustible. In the wake of last month’s fire at the 24-story, 220-foot-high tower in London, Arconic Inc. announced it would no longer make the product available for high-rise buildings.”
“Determining which buildings might be wrapped in the material in the United States is difficult. City inspectors and building owners might not even know. In some cases, building records have been long discarded and neither the owners, operators, contractors nor architects involved could or would confirm whether the cladding was used.”
“That makes it virtually impossible to know whether the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel or Cleveland Browns’ football stadium — both identified by Arconic’s brochures as wrapped in Reynobond PE — are actually clad in the same material as Grenfell Tower, which was engulfed in flames in less than five minutes.”
Read more from the AP story.
Meanwhile, two class-action lawsuits are moving forward against Arconic.
“The manufacturer of architectural panels used on London’s Grenfell Tower that was destroyed in a deadly June 14 fire is facing two class action lawsuits. The company says it plans to “vigorously” fight the allegations, which claim the manufacturer defrauded investors.
“Michael Brave and Frank Tripson, investors in U.S.-based Arconic, filed separate lawsuits in a New York federal court accusing Arconic of violating the Securities Exchange Act. They claim the company made false and misleading statements, or failed to disclose information, regarding alleged fire-hazard concerns about its Reynobond PE product, which was installed on the Grenfell Tower. This, the lawsuits claim, artificially inflated Arconic’s stock prices, which fell approximately 15 percent following news that the panels were used on the building and have partially recovered since. …
“Arconic confirmed in a June statement that it supplied Reynobond PE to a fabricator that ‘used the product as one component of the overall cladding system on Grenfell Tower.’ The company added, ‘The fabricator supplied its portion of the cladding system to the facade installer, who delivered it to the general contractor. The other parts of the cladding system, including the insulation, were supplied by other parties. We were not involved in the installation of the system, nor did we have a role in any other aspect of the building’s refurbishment or original design.’ “
Also in July, at a Facades+ AM conference in Austin, cladding was examined as a unique architectural element. Click for photos.
“As part of the opening discussion panel, titled Digital Design and Fabrication Frontiers, principal at OTA+, Kory Bieg demonstrated how aluminum composite panels can be used to make three-dimensional structures such as arches and vaults. Speaking to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN), Bieg described how he used parametric design tools such as the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper to design Caret 6.”
“The vaulting structure, designed and fabricated by his Design V Studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, was part of an exhibition on metal structures in 2013. Caret 6 is comprised of large folded panels and responds to a brief that called for a structure using aggregation, weaving, and stacking techniques to create an assembly that could transition from a flat surface to a volumetric enclosure.”