Checking the code: Denver high-rise safety following London fire

Posted at 9:42 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-15 00:45:51-04

DENVER -- Many of the headlines the day after the massive high-rise fire in London include the word "cladding," the material put on the outside of the tower as an aesthetic improvement. Some media reports are blaming that material on helping the fire spread. 

It's also something that's being used in Denver high-rises right now. Re-skinning, or re-cladding a building, is happening on several buildings in the area. 
"They're just putting an outside cover on the outside of a building," Capt. Greg Pixley of the Denver Fire Department said. 
We spoke to the company that's redoing the ANB Bank Headquarters in Cherry Creek. They say the material they're using to re-skin the outside is noncombustible, nonflammable, and a different material than what coated the London high rise. 
"Generally there would be a requirement of flame retardant, noncombustible material that would help prevent vertical spread," Steve Rondinelli of BCER Engineering said.
Rondinelli is a fire protection engineer and a fire code expert. 

"The code would be pretty clear on what would be permitted, how it could be installed," he said. 

But what about the space between the two surfaces and the possible chimney effect?

"Anytime you get fire inside a void space, they can be combustible void spaces, where they can actually burn as heat and smoke make their way up," Captain Pixley said.

Denver7 learned that in Denver, the fire code requires something to stop that spread.

"Could be part of an assembly of the skin. That's required by code. Every floor or every other floor," Rondinelli said. 

That means as long as it's done right, you should be safe. 

"If a building owner and their maintenance follow a fire code the way it is written, we shouldn't have problems like that," Captain Pixley said, referring to London. 

If you want to know if your work or apartment building is up to code, check with the building management, contact your local fire Marshal's non-emergency line, or call 3-1-1 in Denver.