External wall systems in existing multi-storey residential buildings - fire risk: advice note - version 2

Version 2.0 of this Scottish Advice Note provides advice for those responsible for fire safety in residential buildings including building owners/managers/residents groups responsible for determining the fire risk posed by external wall systems on existing multi-storey residential buildings.

This document is part of a collection

Annex 4: BS 8414 fire tests and BR135


Following an outbreak of fire inside the building and assuming no firefighting intervention occurs, the fire may develop to flashover and break out from the room of origin through a window opening or doorway. Flames breaking out of a building from a post-flashover fire will typically extend 2 m above the top of the opening. The BS 8414 large scale façade tests are based on this principle i.e. a post flashover compartment fire emanating from a window or door opening or from an external fire source. The test has been designed to allow the fire performance of both applied and supported non-loadbearing external wall cladding systems to be determined. BS 8414-1 is for external cladding systems fixed and supported by a masonry substrate. BS 8414-2 are for those fixed and supported by a structural steel frame.

BR 135 contains guidance on the principles and design methodologies related to fire-spread performance and assists with assessing the performance of the cladding system. Assessment of the test results require a competent professional to assess the extent to which the system tested is relevant to the building in question. BS 9414 'Fire performance of external cladding systems' provides additional information on the application of results from BS 8414 tests.

From May 2005, an alternative to European Classification A1 and A2, had been possible by classification under 'BR 135 Fire Performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multi storey buildings' on the basis of the large scale fire test specified in BS 8414 'Fire Performance of External Cladding Systems'.

In April 2021, as a precautionary measure, the guidance within the Technical Handbooks removed reference to BS 8414 and BR 135 as a means of complying with the mandatory standards. Clause 2.7.0 clarified that this was an interim measure, and confirmed that a BS 8414 test / BR 135 report could still be used but that local authority verifiers were requested to notify the Scottish Government Building Standards Division of any building warrant applications made citing BS 8414 as a route to compliance.

From October 2019, the Technical Handbooks specified external wall systems on all hospitals and care homes of any height and other residential buildings with any storey more than 11 m above the adjoining ground to be constructed of products achieving European Classification A1 (non-combustible) or A2 (will not significantly contribute to fire load and fire growth). An external wall system for residential buildings (other than hospitals and care homes) with any storey at a height not more than 11 m could be constructed from products achieving European Classification B, C, D or E provided the building was more than 1 m from an adjacent building boundary. BS 8414 and BR 135 was still permitted as an alternative to A1 or A2 external wall cladding systems.

In June 2022, the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2022 came into force. External wall cladding systems of Relevant Buildings and Specified Attachments in buildings having a storey at a height of 11m or more above the ground must be constructed of European Classification A1 (non-combustible) or A2 (will not significantly contribute to fire load and fire growth). The key change was the large scale fire test BS 8414 and BR 135 could no longer be used as an alternative approach for Relevant Buildings. See Part 2 : Technical Advice for more information.

BS 8414 test

Although representative of the cladding system, the test rig configuration is not a replica of the building. Its design is intended to achieve consistency across tests including a maximum air velocity in any direction of 2 m/s as specified in the test. The test rig consist of a vertical main test face, into which the combustion chamber is located, and a vertical return wall or wing, set at 90° to the main test face. The test specimen should be installed with all the relevant components, and should be assembled in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. The main test face is at least 8 m high and 2.6 m wide, with the return wing being 8 m high and 1.5 m wide.

A wooden crib is used as the heat source which gives a total nominal heat output of 4500 MJ over a 30 minute period at a peak heat release rate of 3 ± 0.5 MW. The test is terminated early if, for example, sustained flaming extends above the height of the test rig. It is only possible to classify a cladding system if the test lasts the duration (30 minutes burn period and up to 30 minutes thereafter). The cladding system fails the performance criteria in BR 135 where the any of the thermocouples at level 2 (5 m above the combustion chamber) exceeds 600 ºC for a period of at least 30 seconds, within 15 minutes of the start time of the test. The fire test and reporting of the test results require a competent professional to assess the extent to which the system tested is applicable to the real building.

BS 9414: 2019 – Fire performance of external cladding systems – The application of results from BS 8414-1 and BS 8414-2 tests.

There are a number of practical limitations on the size and design of construction elements that can be evaluated by a standard method of test. For example, if these elements are larger or of a modified design or type, it is necessary to be able to confirm that the integrity of the test result would be maintained if such changes to the system were implemented. The number of changes can vary according to the complexity of the external cladding and the type of construction being considered. Every component of the external cladding could have an impact on the fire spread performance of the system and each change needs to be the subject of a separate evaluation. This can be achieved through the use of standardized rules.

BS 9414 provides direct application rules to be applied when assessing the implications of such modifications in relation to systems which have been subjected to tests in accordance with BS 8414. The following systems are covered by the standard:

  • rain-screens;
  • external thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS);
  • self-supporting double skin metal faced insulating (sandwich) panels.

Extended application enables a prediction to be made on the expected fire performance of a system under specified fire conditions if one or more of the components or parameters evaluated as part of the test specimen were to be changed. In the specific case of external cladding systems, such predictions are based upon the need to abide strictly with the fundamental principle that the fire performance of the modified system would be equal or better if it were to be subjected to a BS 8414-1 or BS 8414-2 test.


Email: BuildingStandards@gov.scot

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