Grenfell Tower - corax

Horrendous news on this and the story is sure to unfold over the coming weeks.

I have never seen a building that was so engulfed in fire and so quickly. In fact, when I first switched the news on my first thought was that it was a terrorist incident.

Despite a ten million pounds refurbishment, it looks like they have cut corners regarding the insulation. It looks like they have basically covered the building with the equivalent of tinder. If you look at video fire tests for something like Kingspan insulation against standard polyurethane, the former creates a carbon barrier then extinguishes. The polyurethane burns and produces smoke just like we have seen at Grenfell.

I can't understand how such a flammable material that they have used for this building could have passed all the regulations.

But having worked for local authorities, I can quite understand how certain things could be swept under the rug.

Obviously people will have to be held to account, but it's too late, people always have to die before something is done.

Grenfell Tower - RobJP

As far as I'm aware, it wasn't a polyeurethane compound, but a polyethylene compound. Which can be made fire-retardant.

But yes, there do look to have been significant failures.

Unfortunately, this happens when you 'modernise' buildings such as this. Bringing these buildings up to the latest standards for insulation is hellishly difficult. But the alternative is either not modernising them (not acceptable with all the energy-saving measures in building regs these days), or demolition and start from scratch.

As an example, when these buildings were initially built, they had steel-framed windows. Which were brilliant for fire protection, but useless for insulation. The windows were replaced in the refurbishment - with UPVC frames. UPVC melts and burns. However, the old steel windows HAD to be replaced - the building regs state that when significant maintenance is done to the outside of a building, these new high-insulation frames MUST be used. There is no way around it.

There also appear to have been failures with sprinklers and even fire alarms.

Grenfell Tower - sandy56

Looks like the alarms did not work, and there was no sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are not required in UK law to be fitted in these buildings, even when being refurbished.

Crazy but true.

Penny pinching is common in most local authorities who believe in ensuring they pay thier council leader huge sums in pay and benefits, but everything else is up for discussion, including fire safety.

Most would not stay in such a building without proper sprinkler systems.

Grenfell Tower - daveyjp
Its not penny piching.

Local Authorities will require a refurbishment which meets all relevant standards and for the best value. They will generally go for the tender which firstly meets the brief and secondly at the lowest cost. However it appears this contractor was winning a lot of work in the south east and familiarity can breed contempt.

We don't have retrospective building regs in the UK. Fitting sprinklers may seem like a one liner in a specification, however it isn't law for sprinklers to be fitted. Local Authorities do have to remember they are spending taxpayers money so won't over specify. Water companies will also object to their installation if they feel installation will affect the wider water network, I know this from very recent experience.

Its a tragedy, but there is no single point of failure. Its a classic 'Swiss Cheese incident' just like Titanic, Zeebrugge, Bradford city fire, Hillsborough, Concorde.

A fire which should have been contained wasn't.

What I have gleaned so far.

Residents had complained of power surges blowing up electrical equipment including TVs, computers etc
Residents put fridge freezers in front of the k****** window, having food storage is deemed by residents more important than light and view from a k****** window.
Upgrade changes windows from Crital type to uPVC system (aluminium double glazing could be used, but under regs not required and more expensive)
Possible Power surge causes fridge to explode.
CFC replaced with highly flammable compressor gas which ignites.
Explosion breaks window and the one hour fire compartment is immediately breached.
UPVC window and fridge gas provides fuel. It was also after midnight. Residents likely to be in bed or unlikely to be in the k****** so plenty of other fuel, k****** cabinets etc.
It only takes 60-90 seconds for a small fire in a small room to need fire service to extinguish.
Resident aware of fire makes the call
6 minutes for fire service to arrive, another 2-3 minutes to assess and get pumps ready.
10 minutes and cladding well alight, breaching more uPVC windows and entering other flats.
Residents opening doors to escape.
No dry riser system in building so fire service can't enter to fight fires on each floor.
Fire enters corridors
Fire doors not shut
Fire spreads rapidly assisted by gas escaping from new pipework which has been placed in corridors.

This time I really hope an investigation leads to changes are made which are implemented quickly.
Grenfell Tower - Bromptonaut

Most would not stay in such a building without proper sprinkler systems.

Sprinklers are not a magic bullet. If they go off, even accidentally, water damage wil extend to properties adjacent and several floors below. Not sure they would have helped at Grenfell tower since blaze appears to have spread externally.

Block of LA flats about half height of Grenfell is opposite car park I use for work. During winter a flat circa floor 6 had a serious fire. It appears to be burned out and there's scorching to exterior of flats above but it was effectively contained.

Grenfell Tower - corax

As far as I'm aware, it wasn't a polyeurethane compound, but a polyethylene compound. Which can be made fire-retardant.

You were correct RobJP, and the aluminium skin seems to have broken away, allowing the insulation to burn. Polyethylene still burns.

The sad thing is that the same scenario has happened in other countries. You would have thought that people who are specialised in this type of work would learn from this.

Councils will push health and safety, call themselves investors in people blah blah, but when it comes down to it, the management will cut corners when they need to. I have had first hand experience of it.

Grenfell Tower - FP

There's no getting away from the fact that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is in deep trouble over the Grenfell Tower fire, both for their lack of care in commissioning the “upgrade” to the building which allowed substandard components to be used and unsafe changes to be made, their defensive posture since the disaster and their lack of action since.

Most of the rest of the capital and the country are rightly disgusted by these events – not that we should kid ourselves that it couldn’t happen anywhere else.

Edited by FP on 19/06/2017 at 17:09

Grenfell Tower - Avant

It seems that the flats in Kensington and Chelsea are managed by the K & C Tenant Management Organisation, whose board members are mostly tenants themselves.

Not for the first time, outsourcing = lack of control. I don't know how much responsibility the borough council itself has for this in law, but they can't ignore their moral responsibility to council tenants.

Grenfell Tower - John F

It's a national disgrace. The true culprits are our legislators and their lawyers who have been negligent by both drafting imprecise regulations ( the lawyers for any inquiry will doubtless profit hugely from pondering vague phrases like 'limited combustibility'), and failing to amend them after the experience of similar fires elsewhere.

The building regs should have prohibited the use of either named specific materials or anything that will ignite at <1000C for cladding/insulation. So far, it appears that nothing illegal was done.

 

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