Report to health facilities Scotland: Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children Glasgow risk of fire spread on external envelope of building

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The Grenfell Tower fire (London, 2017) raised concerns about the potential for combustible external cladding panels, sandwich or rainscreen, to contribute to the rapid spread of fire on the outside of a building leading to rapid fire spread internally on multiple levels. Following a review of cladding systems on NHS Scotland (NHSS) buildings, The School of Engineering and Built Environment of Glasgow Caledonian University was commissioned by NHSS Health Facilities Scotland to undertake a series of fire modelling analyses and to provide a qualitative review with regard to external cladding systems on three hospitals within the NHSS Estate.The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent to which the combustible rainscreen cladding systems would contribute to rapid external fire spread, and potential re-entry, at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) in order to inform NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (GG&C) decision making regarding actions/protection measures that might be necessary to ensure the safety of all patients, staff and public in the event of a fire. A qualitative examination of the materials making up the outer envelope of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was carried out. The construction of all of the external envelope elements under consideration, are deemed under the Building (Scotland) Regulations to be at least ‘Low Risk’; however not all are deemed to be ‘Non-combustible’. Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM) panels form part of the external element of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) but these are only accessible from the podium roof at fourth floor level. It is therefore considered highly improbable that malicious or accidental ignition of the ACM panels will occur.Part of the external cladding of the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) was identified as not having the correct cladding system installed, as specified, and this is scheduled to be replaced with cladding to meet the original specification.Both QEUH and RHC have a high standard of passive and active fire protection together with highly trained staff to ensure that all patients, staff and public can evacuate safely in the event of fire.Computer modelling was carried out using the software Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS). Fire scenarios that involved the ignition of the ACM cladding from a room fire at QEUH were modelled. These indicated that the cladding was ignited by a fire plume that was external to the building. However, conditions in the rooms above the fire plume had become untenable prior to ignition of the cladding. There was no significant lateral spread of fire along the façade, therefore adjacent rooms are unlikely to be affected by the scenarios that have been considered.It is noted that for the fire modelling to generate conditions for external spread of the fire, and ignition of the cladding, it was necessary to assume that:i) the automatic sprinkler system failed to operate,ii) the furnishings in the room did not comply with the requirements of SHTM 87 and that the fire load was significantly greater than is realistic in normal operational conditions,iii) there was no active intervention/action to prevent/mitigate fire growth.It is the conclusion of this report, based on the outputs of the fire modelling scenarios undertaken, that in the event of an internal fire the fire spread associated with the ignition of the cladding will not contribute adversely to the risk to occupants first affected in rooms close1 to the fire or to their safe evacuation.On the basis of the findings of this report, and advice from other sources, NHS GG&C made the decision to:i) replace areas of combustible rainscreen cladding at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital,ii) replace areas of installed combustible thermal insulation with non- combustible insulation at the Royal Hospital for Children.The decisions were made in the context of providing additional precautionary measures, and ensuring the highest level of protection, for key regional and national assets.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherGlasgow Caledonian University
Commissioning bodyHealth Facilities Scotland
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • fire spread
  • facade
  • aluminium composite materials
  • building envelope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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