A Combustible Cladding Fire Risk Analysis Case Study

Jeffrey Harper
Vice President
Jensen Hughes, Chicago

Sustainable growth of polycentric cities will necessarily include reuse of existing building stock. Regardless of whether a city has been around for a hundred or more years, like London or Chicago, or if it is relatively new, like Dubai; that city is likely to have a stock of buildings that were either built in the last 20 years or they have experienced significant renovations in the past 20 years that may have included modification to some or all of the building façade. In the last 20 years, the world has been witness to several significant fires involving very tall buildings in which one major form of fire spread involved the combustible façade materials that may have been inappropriately used in the design and construction of the façade. A fire risk analysis can potentially assist in the determination of how much of the combustible façade materials should be removed.

The designers and planners of our future cities need to understand the impacts of the presence of those combustible materials on the exterior of those buildings that may be forming the nuclei of one of these polycentric city neighborhoods. While removal and replacement of the combustible materials is most prudent, it is often not feasible. Fire risk analysis can be an effective tool to systematically identify fire related threats for purposes of developing a mitigation strategy. This presentation includes a case study of the complexities associated with conducting a fire risk analysis on a building having been partially clad in aluminum composite panels with a polyethylene core.