Cleveland Browns stadium, other U.S. buildings might sport flammable panels
In promotional brochures, a U.S. company boasted of the “stunning visual effect” its shimmering aluminum panels created in an NFL stadium, an Alaskan high school and a luxury hotel along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that “soars 33 stories into the air.”
Those same panels — Reynobond composite material with a polyethylene core — also were used in the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London. British authorities say they’re investigating whether the panels helped spread the blaze that ripped across the building’s outer walls, killing at least 80 people.
The panels, also called cladding, accentuate a building’s appearance and improve energy efficiency. But they are not recommended for use in buildings above 40 feet because they are combustible. In the wake of last month’s fire at the 24story, 220-foot-high tower in London, Arconic Inc. announced it would no longer make the product available for high-rise buildings.
Determining which buildings might be wrapped in the material in the United States is difficult. City inspectors and building owners might not even know. In some cases, building records have been long discarded and neither the owners, operators, contractors nor architects involved could or would confirm whether the cladding was used.
That makes it virtually impossible to know whether the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel or Cleveland Browns’ football stadium — both identified by Arconic’s brochures as wrapped in Reynobond PE — are actually clad in the same material as Grenfell Tower, which was engulfed in flames in less than five minutes.
Cleveland’s chief building official says panels used on a city-owned NFL stadium are “similar if not identical” to those used at a London apartment tower that burned.
The International Building Code adopted by the U.S. requires more stringent fire testing of materials used on the sides of buildings taller than 40 feet. However, states and cities can set their own rules.
The top two floors of 1899 Wynkoop, a nine-story office and retail building in LoDo, were clad with Reynobond PE to lighten the appearance and keep the building from dominating the surrounding warehouses, Arconic advertises in promotional materials. About 13,000 square feet of the material was used, the company said. Officials in Denver’s community planning and development office have been looking into the matter but haven’t been able to locate the original building plans. “Our expectation is that it was purged as part of our normal records retention process,” spokeswoman Andrea Burns said.