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CROSS Safety Report

Another example of brick slips falling from height

Report ID: 1081 Published: 10 March 2022 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

Another example of defective brick slips falling from the facade of a building.

Key Learning Outcomes

For building owners:

  • CROSS is very keen to hear about other cases of brick slip failures

For designers:

  • Consider the likely life-span of the materials and components used on facades
  • Some adhesives used may not adequately give the required robustness and longevity

For the construction team:

  • Manufacturer’s instructions for the selection and application of adhesives must be followed
  • Do not substitute products without the approval of the designer

Full Report

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CROSS published a significant report in August 2021 ‘Brick slips falling from height’ which described cases of brick slips falling from height due to adhesive failures.

Another reporter has since provided this further example where brick slips have de-bonded from the substrate and fallen to the ground. Slips have fallen from a number of storeys above ground level. Of particular concern in this case, is that on at least two previous occasions, brick slips have been removed to prevent falls, but further falls have continued. It appears that the clearance work was not able to stop further falls. The local authority is now seeking removal of all slips.

The reporter believes that either defective or inappropriate material was used on the external wall of this building and considers that such material should not have been used.

Readers are encouraged to refer to the previous report Brick slips falling from height and let CROSS know of other similar specific failures about which they have knowledge.

Expert Panel Comments

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Components and materials do fall off buildings causing fatalities and injuries. CROSS has had many reports about falling objects. A brick slip falling from any height could cause a fatality. Brick slips have been a long-term concern in the industry and the focus has been on these as opposed to tiles or mosaics because of the size of the unit, but the issue is the same. Where reasonable, designers should seek to mitigate any risk of building components falling off without visible prior warning. 

a brick slip falling from any height could cause a fatality

There must be very many buildings with brickwork cladding that incorporate brick slips; some attached by mechanical means and some with adhesives. The practice goes back many years and a variety of systems were used. Some will have been more robust and successful than others and some of the suppliers no longer exist so records are sparse or non-existent.

It is known that in the past there might not have been enough testing of brick slip systems but developments in recent years have improved their general quality. Older systems may be less engineered whilst newer systems could have improved longevity.

Remedial works to brick slip systems

After any brick slip failure or incident, a full detailed appraisal of the remaining slips on the structure should be undertaken to lessen the chance of a recurrence.

As may have happened in this case, where areas of loose slip are removed it could be that this leaves a weak edge into which water penetrates further reducing the bond and so causing a further fall of units. Weather protection is key to temporary or permanent remedial works to ensure that weathering or frost attack do not lead to further deterioration. With hindsight, it is easy to see why in this report the local authority is seeking removal of all brick slips.

An additional complication to be considered is the UK Government's ban on combustible products for new work on residential buildings over 18m in height as adhesives are generally combustible. Compliance with the new regulations should be considered including for remedial works.

Designing and constructing brick slip systems

In-depth consideration should be given to assessing the likely life of a system and the required level of site control when installing to ensure that an appropriate level of confidence can be given to the likely performance in use. At least the following should be considered:

  1. The suitability and compatibility of the substrate, adhesive, brick slips and other fixtures, for the site specific environmental and in-use conditions.
  2. Specification of materials and workmanship detailing how the system is to be fixed, paying full regard to manufacturer’s recommendations and conditions.
  3. Adequate detailing to prevent weathering and water ingress.
  4. Inspection and testing during installation to ensure adequate fixing.

In the end, it is a matter of both adequate design and construction supervision to ensure that the work is to standard. Workmanship is often the weak point in failures.

Call to share information about brick slip issues

Additional information is needed in order to assess the level of potential risk, so reports are requested from anyone who has experience of brick slips falling or becoming loose.

A useful reference on the subject is Alexis Harrison's article Are brick slip cladding systems safe?

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