MMC fire-risk warning from leading insurer

White Paper analyses risk with specific reference to what that means for housing associations and councils considering new-build.

A leading insurer has warned housing associations and councils considering new-build to be wary of possible fire risks posed by modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

Facing a growing number of fire claims post Grenfell, Zurich Municipal has released a white paper analysing the human impact of fire risk – with specific reference to what that means for the public sector.

The white paper acknowledges use of MMC as attractive option for future social housing.

But despite the benefits, many popular MMC solutions also introduce added risks and reduced resilience when compared with more traditional builds, the paper says.

One specific risk referenced are voids between modules that could allow fire and smoke to “spread rapidly” through a building.

The paper also urges the choosing of “entirely non-combustible” cladding systems, which include all components of wall build-up – making a case for “future difficulties” inherent in limiting the ban on combustible cladding to high-rise residential buildings if the building is subject to change of use.

Zurich Municipal has campaigned for the combustible cladding ban to be extended to apply to the entire external envelope of buildings.

Extending the ban to both residential and non-residential developments will, the paper says, ensure a fire at a lower level does not negatively affect the level of safety provided to the overall building – while also ensuring that future occupancy changes do not result in reduced or inconsistent safety standards.

And with MMC influenced by sustainable components, the handling of timber – where cross-lamination allows for more comprehensive use – is said to have become “increasingly complex”.

“We have seen a number of fires that have become more severe due to issues with fire stopping, hidden fire spread in voids, and inappropriate use of combustible cladding,” the paper says.

Where many MMC projects have been influenced by sustainable building components, it is, the paper says, essential that those responsible for constructing the building not only have the appropriate skills, but also that they are overseen by a third-party to ensure build quality.

The paper says it is important that residents, maintenance staff, and firefighters can all access related relevant information quickly and in a format that is simple to understand.

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