Renovation
Sustainability
Fire safety

Italy: Creating a new generation of safe and sustainable buildings requires changes to Italian fire regulations

Michael Zarin, Vice President, Group Communications
Michael Zarin
28 September 2021

Prohibiting combustible façade insulation and cladding on high-rise and high-risk buildings will be a major step toward aligning Italy’s fire regulations with other EU countries and creating a new generation of fire-safe buildings.

A high-rise building in Milan on fire

Although the official investigation into the causes of the recent Milan tower fire is ongoing, initial findings indicate that combustible cladding on the outside of the 20-storey building contributed to the fire’s rapid spread and intensity. That the fire started near the top of the building and spread downward is an indication of that intensity.

The fire is an urgent reminder that current Italian fire safety regulations must be changed to prohibit the use of combustible façade materials on high-rise and high-risk* buildings.

This is the lesson England learned after the tragic 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died. Post-Grenfell fire safety regulations eliminated the ambiguity and subjectivity that allowed combustible materials on the outside of tall buildings. It is now simply prohibited to install combustible insulation or cladding on tall buildings above 18m.

Italy should do the same. This issue takes on even greater urgency in that Italy is currently experiencing a boom in energy-saving building renovations. Spurred on by the popular Superbonus 110% incentive programme, this renovation wave often includes installing façade insulation and cladding.

ROCKWOOL-Italy’s country manager Paolo Migliavacca comments, “It is very encouraging that such substantial resources are being invested to upgrade the Italian building stock. But current regulations still allow for combustible façade insulation and cladding on tall buildings. This creates an entirely unnecessary and avoidable fire-safety risk to the people who live, work, play, and recover in such buildings”.

According to Mirella Vitale, Senior Vice President for Marketing, Communications, and Public Affairs at ROCKWOOL Group headquarters in Denmark, “By banning combustible insulation and cladding on high-rise and high-risk buildings, Italy would take a major step toward aligning fire regulations with other EU countries and creating a new generation of fire-safe and sustainable buildings. Why take the risk to do otherwise?”

Vitale continues, “Some things don’t have to be complicated. People would naturally prefer to live or work in tall buildings wrapped in insulation that doesn’t burn over ones wrapped in insulation that does. The straightforward approach to fire safety in high-rise and high-risk buildings is simply to prohibit the use of combustible façade insulation and cladding. The time to act is now”.

 

* high-risk buildings include schools, hospitals, care facilities and other buildings that require longer evacuation times in the event of a fire emergency

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