The essential guide to building insurance cover: over the last couple of decades there has been a tremendous increase in the use of lightweight composite sandwich panels for buildings as opposed to built up on site cladding systems, masonry, traditional bricks, blocks and mortar type construction. The author discusses the industry response and the developments to date.(Fire Prevention)

This has been a hot debate, particularly for insurers who are being forced to reconsider the risks of building insurance following a number of serious fires. Sixty per cent of school fires for example, are started deliberately and an estimated one in seven will experience an attack this year, at a cost to the insurance industry of approximately 100 million [pounds sterling].

With three school fires everyday, it is no surprise that there are very few companies prepared to insure schools. One school insurer, Zurich Municipal, suggested at a House of Commons seminar last year that construction materials with low combustibility, Euroclass A1 or A2, should be used to prevent fire spread in schools and buildings at large.

This attitude is not in isolation and is increasingly becoming an issue for insurers throughout the commercial and industrial sectors as heavy losses are forcing insurers to think twice. As a result, poor attitudes to effective fire safety management and the use of combustible materials in sandwich panels will continue to attract higher premiums.

This is more significant given the extent of the liability chain within the building industry. For example, court action was taken against architects Paskin Kyriakides Sands in 2003 for negligence, on issues of notification of risk following their recommendation to use sandwich panels with combustible insulation as the core material. It is therefore quite apparent that any widespread use of combustible materials does not assist employers who need to identify all potential hazards to make the statutory risk assessment already required by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 as amended. …

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