Image by Humphrey Bolton. Tower blocks off Mixenden Road, Mixenden As seen from the bridleway near Leighton Farm.

I’m worried my block has ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding

What is ACM?

Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) was often used as a cladding material for tower blocks, until the Grenfell Tower fire. 

Sadly, that disaster showed how ACM can help fire spread quickly through a building.

Other types of cladding are also unsafe, like High Pressure Laminate (HPL), which enabled the spread of fire at Lakanal House in 2009.

After Grenfell, the government have started changing the law to a) stop these materials being used in new buildings, and b) encourage their replacement in existing blocks.

What does the law say?

Your landlord is required to keep you safe from fire: the relevant law includes The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

See further information at the foot of this page.

The government is banning combustible materials on new high-rise homes and giving support to local authorities to carry out emergency remediation work. The latest information about this can be seen here.

How can you find out?

There’s no way to tell for certain what type of cladding has been used on a tower block, just by looking at it. All materials would need an expert to test them.

It is important to understand that the safety of cladding is not just about the outer layer. There is likely to be insulation underneath, and it is the safety of the entire ‘system’ which has to be assessed.  

What action can I take?

Ask your landlord

Ask what kind of cladding is on your building, and, if it is unsafe, what your landlord is doing about it.

The best way to find out for sure is to ask your landlord to check their records to see when cladding or insulation was installed, and what material it is. 

They should be able to do this easily by checking the cladding certificate or referring to the most recent Fire Risk Assessment. Any external cladding should be mentioned in the Fire Risk Assessment, though it might not mention exactly what material it is. 

You can copy this letter to ask your landlord for this information.

Complain

If you discover that the cladding is unsafe, you can complain to your landlord, to the responsible person, to the fire and rescue service, and possibly also to Environmental Health.

If your landlord does not respond

If your landlord is a Local Authority (council) you may use the Freedom of Information Act to request information about the type of cladding used.

See our page on using FOI.

Some housing associations are not liable to Freedom of Information, but they a well-run housing association generally answer a reasonable question of this sort.

See below for further routes to take if none of these are bringing you a response.

Consider other routes 

Further information

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 puts duties on the responsible person.

    The responsible person has a duty to take general precautions to protect people from fire, including a requirement todo a Fire Risk Assessment, to keep escape routes clear, and to make sure fire can be detected on the premises.

    This law is enforced by the local Fire and Rescue Service.

Links to explore

  • Inside Housing on HPL cladding (requires free registration)
  • A Safer Future There was a consultation run by government (June-July 2019) after the Grenfell Tower tragedy. These are the government proposals after that consultation (April 2020). The next step is that they will be debated and when Parliament has agreed on the exact details, they will pass into law.

Image credit