The tragedy at Grenfell Tower in West London was caused by greed on the part of the contractors who could have put up apparently fire-resistant panels for an extra £5,000. On a price of £2.6 million this is nothing. Mind you those panels are banned in Germany and cited as 12mm board.
The problem was not only in the panels. It was the gap between the cladding and the concrete building which caused a conduit for the fire. A firefighter described being scared for the first time and thinking it reminiscent of 9/11 in America.
Personally, I think that the building should be taken down and rebuilt with sprinklers as a condition of building. There should be directions to people to leave immediately rather than the current instructions to stay in their flats and await rescue. I don’t think that the fire hoses could reach 24 storeys. In a neighbouring building,there were no fire extinguishers to be seen and no fire alarm. This may have been due to gangs in the area using them as weapons. The only solution to that is a crackdown on gangs, by using community and Special Police visible in the community. It would be much appreciated by the residents. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so sad that the owners of the building had so little care for its tenants and owners.
There are other high-rise buildings across the country with cladding like the Grenfell Tower. All high-rise buildings, say above four floors, should be inspected immediately for fire conduits. A solution could be to remove the cladding . That would remove the conduit or gap between the panels and the concrete walls, apparently causing the fire to spread so rapidly. As an Architect of Grenfell Tower said:
“We built a concrete building in 1974 and concrete simply does not burn like that. “ *
Sadly, local Councils across the country have been saying today that cladding on their tower blocks meet fire regulations. This is the point. In 1973 we joined the Common Market, later to be the EU. The Chief Health & Safety Officer at the small company where I worked, told me that this was the end of British Standards, envied the world over. We would in future follow the Common Market’s regulations, which were a lot lower. And look what’s happened and what could happen. So Councils, please don’t behave like the ostrich: take your head out of the sand and investigate all of your tower blocks, to give residents peace of mind.
‘Arnold Tarling of the Association of Specialist Fire Protections, said yesterday:
“When this block was built, it complied with the old fire regulations. Had it been left alone, it would never have burned like this. “ **
As a long-term solution, maybe the towers could be painted with fire-resistant paint? This could make them pretty for the residents. I vaguely remember seeing a TV report about a high-rise block in London being depressing to look at and Councils must have then concentrated on the aesthetics.
The company involved in this cladding refurbishment in 2016 should never have been in operation. Mr and Mrs Bailey were Director and Company Secretary respectively of Harley Curtain Wall, which went bankrupt in 2015, owing £1.18 million. Under UK law, if your company goes bankrupt, then Directors cannot hold such posts for five years. However Harley Facades Limited, their other company continued in operation and indeed later bought Harley Curtain Wall back for £24,900.
It is a loophole in British business where companies can go bust and then start up again soon afterwards. That is probably why the Baileys think that they are in the clear and they may well be as I am not an expert in company law. But they should never have been allowed to be Directors after going bankrupt. I do fear there may be a loophole within another loophole, legislation being what it is. At the very least it merits investigation.
*(Sam Greenhill, Josh White, James Tozer – Daily Mail, 16 June)
** same article