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Scottish contractors urged to consider impact of new high-rise cladding rules

Out-Law News | 26 Apr 2022 | 2:42 pm | 1 min. read

Construction firms in Scotland should consider how changes to cladding regulations in force from June 2022 could impact new and ongoing projects, according to one legal expert.

It comes after the Scottish government introduced legislation to ban the use of the highest risk cladding and combustible materials in buildings above 11 metres tall last week. The reforms, which will come into force on 1 June 2022, will also ban the highest risk metal composite cladding materials from any new building of any height - with replacement cladding also required to meet the new technical standards.

Katherine Metcalfe, health and safety law expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “These proposed reforms are unsurprising: since late 2018, the technical handbooks have contained rules limiting the use of combustible materials on the outside of certain buildings in Scotland. This legislation, which will formalise that ban, follows last year’s public consultations on the fire safety of cladding systems and on energy and environmental standards.”

“The Scottish government’s arrangements for the construction industry to transition to the new cladding rules are, however, quite limited. Firms have just over a month before the legislation is due to come into force and so will need to carefully consider how the changes impact their pipeline of projects to ensure they remain legally compliant,” Metcalfe added.

New cladding systems on high rise blocks of flats are currently required to use non-combustible materials or pass a large-scale fire test called a BS 8414. If the cladding passes the test – even when it contains combustible materials - it can be used. But the new building standards legislation removes the option of a BS 8414 test, completely banning combustible materials from use on domestic and other high-risk buildings above 11m.

The combustible cladding ban will apply to all buildings with a storey 11m or more above the ground, as well as high risk buildings like hospitals, entertainment venues and residential care homes. The legislation only applies to new buildings and replacement cladding and does not cover fire safety for existing buildings.

The Scottish government plans to publish supporting technical handbooks setting out the full detail of changes in May. Its reforms also include improvements to energy performance standards, intended to make buildings easier to heat while ensuring they are well ventilated and comfortable to live in. The changes to energy and environmental standards will apply from 1 October 2022.