ABI to clarify its guuidance on use of composite panels.

The ABI is considering withholding fire cover from buildings that fail to meet new criteria for construction materials.

In response to lobbying from MPs, the ABI has agreed to clarify its guidance document, Fire Performance of Sandwich Panel Systems – May 2003.

A paragraph within the guidance unintentionally endorsed the potential inappropriate use of combustible polyisocyanurate (PIR) plastic foam for a range of industrial and public buildings.

An ABI spokesman said: “We want to encourage manufacturers, builders, employers and customers to ensure their properties are as fire retardant as possible. Whether or not discounts are offered for particular types of fire prevention measures and materials would be up to individual insurer, in the same way financial incentives are available for various security measures.

“For businesses, it’s less a question of discounts and more about ensuring the fire risk is adequately managed before fire insurance is available.”

MP Alun Michael, a former construction minister, said: “I was very worried when I was told that the ABI technical briefing was being construed in a way that could be misleading in terms of the fire safety and performance of some products. I am very pleased that the ABI has listened to the concerns raised and has decided to amend its guidance.”

Over 10,000 buildings constructed in the past five years are thought to have PIR panels as external walls, including hospitals, schools and public buildings. The cost of bringing these buildings up to a level of adequate fire safety could run into billions of pounds.

Michael said building assessments were required before more accurate figures could be provided. He added that changes might not be retroactive.

Meanwhile, Peterborough City Council is considering requiring all buildings using PIR panels to have significant associated fire reduction measures in place.