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Valencia Fire & ACP Sheets

On February 22, a fire swept through a 14-story apartment block in the Campanar neighborhood of Valencia, Spain. Within minutes the entire building was engulfed in flames, and so far 10 people have died.

While the cause of the fire is still unclear, much of the focus has turned to the building’s cladding—material added to the outside of high-rise blocks to improve insulation and aesthetics, and which helped the fire spread so quickly.

It has been reported that the building was covered with highly combustible polyurethane cladding, which is internationally recognised as being dangerous because if it catches fire it spreads so quickly, and can cause a devastating inferno of massive proportions. The event has raised comparisons with the Grenfell Tower inferno that saw a London apartment block burn in a similar manner in 2017, with 72 people losing their lives. Similar to Grenfell, the Valencia apartment fire has raised more questions and concerns about fire safety standards and cladding materials.

Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) cladding has been recognised as a common factor in a number of commercial and apartment fires in recent years, and the purpose of this article is to shed some light on ACP, what it is, how to identify it and what to do if you recognise it on one of your properties.

ACP, or sometimes Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), is a versatile, increasingly popular material used as part of a building’s exterior cladding system.  The cladding acts to keep out the elements, such as wind and rain, and gives the building its “look”. It’s typically made up of two layers of aluminium bound to a non-aluminium (but sometimes aluminium honey comb) core.  The layers act as a composite material and have a thin coloured film baked on to one side giving it its distinct, metallic finish. 

ACP continues to grow in popularity because its relatively cheap, easy to work with, durable and lightweight. Because of the way it’s made it’s relatively easy to cut and can be formed into a variety of shapes and finishes making it popular with architects. 

ACP materials available in New Zealand fall into three broad categories:

  • Polyethylene/mineral core  
  • Solid aluminium  
  • Honeycomb 

Each of these pose varying levels of risk to a building owner, tenant and insurer. If you have ACP cladding in your property/apartment then we recommend you tell us immediately and you conduct further research and investigation into the type and the mix of cladding construction you have.

Without getting into further details around the different ACP products and their construction, it’s important to highlight with apartment owners, body corporate committees and property owners the need to be aware of cladding materials used in your building. Insurers are now requiring more information about the construction materials involved to help avoid such significant and devastating events like Valencia and Grenfell.

If you have any questions about your insurance we highly recommend you talk to your commercial broker at AIB or drop us an email at [email protected].

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