Reply To: Combustible cladding materials

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John Prendergast

This was spoken about at the Taskforce meeting yesterday and Prue clarified what Murray was referring to. Basically he was trying to say the PE cladding will need to be removed.

Fire testing PE and why it burns? (impact solutions download)

The main reason why PE is very popular lies on its exceptional material properties combined with low cost production. PE yields very good ductility, impact strength, it is a very good electrical insulator and shows excellent chemical and water resistant properties.

But, PE has one main drawback, this is its performance under high temperatures and/or fire.

PE burns when placed under a source of flame giving off a paraffin odour. What is really important is that after removing the flame source, PE would sustain the flame and keep burning. In fact, in order to understand better the burning properties of PE, think about the candles and how they slowly burn. Candles are actually made of low molecular weight PE!

As the PE chain burns, in presence of oxygen, it passes easily up the chain, from one Carbon (C) atom to the other carbon. This means the fire can spread quickly with little to stop it. Fire testing PE panels, such as this short youtube video, shows why the use of PE in cladding is dangerous. Fire testing PE is therefore very important for any designer or architect who is thinking of using the material in their designs.

As a result, it becomes obvious that PE should not be used in large quantities in applications where fire might be an issue, such as in construction or house decoration. Although it cannot initiate fire, it could very well act as fuel for fire.