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Re: Grenfell Tower Block
Jul 03, 2017, 15:09
grufty jim wrote:
I've talked to my wife about this a few times over the past weeks. She's quite uniquely qualified to comment on it (certainly a lot more than me!) She's an architect who spent some time as a fire-safety specialist.

Also -- her apartment (in a high-rise block) was gutted by fire when she was a kid. So it's something she's looked at from most perspectives.

She's way too professional to make any definitive statements without knowing all the facts; but she's very clear about one thing -- this should never have happened. Building materials and safety standards for high-rise blocks (certainly in Europe) are focused on preventing exactly this kind of thing (the spread of fire from one unit to another).

And they work. If adhered to.

An appliance fire in one apartment should never be capable of spreading to the next apartment in less than a certain time period.

4-hour fire-rated walls do exist (as you mentioned). Apparently the way it works, though, is that usually the higher the building, the higher the fire-rating. My wife can't speak to UK regulations specifically. But based on best-practice elsewhere, she suggests a 90-minute rating would be the bare minimum for a block like Grenfell.

The fire spread much faster than that. There was clearly a catastrophic failure of the building's fire safety features. Whether that was the external cladding, or something else... or some combination of factors... we'll need a proper inquiry to discover the truth.

But someone (or someones) screwed up badly here. There are systems in place to make sure this can't happen, and when they fail it is almost always because someone cut corners somewhere. Of course there are exceptions -- and maybe this will be one of them -- but odds are there are people out there right now who are getting very quiet legal advice.

As you will know Jim, your wife (or a company she may work for) would be approached by either a builder or the builders customer to draw up the plans for a particular job. A material list would accompany the plans when they were presented to Building Control and all rules and regs that applied highlighted. Presented correctly it ensures you get a yes or no back sooner rather than later.
It is Building Controls job to approve of ALL materials used and if they have any concerns beforehand then they approach the manufactures for advice and any technical details they should know about. Test results would be asked for that were carried out by independents. Once satisfied all is well they are free to allow approval of the plans and the work to go ahead.

Enter the BC Building Inspector. His job is to see that all work is carried out per the full specification and any changes decided upon during the work to be approved by Building Control before commencement.
The BI 'signs off' each stage of the work (groundwork and drainage first) before the next stage is allowed to commence. It is the Inspectors job to ensure that the builders only use the materials approved of on the plan and nothing else unless getting BC approval. It is quite common for builders to opt for a new cheaper brand of product if it offers an equal or higher rating than that specified if the BI approves.

So the job finishes and the Building Inspector looks at all the stages he has signed off including the quality of the work and if satisfied signs the pink slip. Job done!

At the end of the day the buck stops at Building Control as it was them and their man/woman who's job it was to ensure all the correct safety materials were used as specified and alternatives equally approved of.

My guess is that BC are keeping a low profile right now!

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