Government and councils were warned repeatedly about fire safety experts dreads over tower blocks as far back as 1999
The residents of Grenfell Tower were alarmed to discover smoke pouring from their electrical appliances in May 2013. Laptops, televisions, cleaning machines and fridges were damaged by an unexplained series of power surges that inspired the frightened occupants of the 24 -storey tower in west London to descend on their estate office, demanding action and answers.
In an email to Robert Black, CEO of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation( KCTMO ), which manages the 1970 s social housing property on behalf of the local authority, one resident explained we had numerous power surges in the space of a minute, and in that process my computer and monitor literally explosion, with smoking oozing out from the back.
According to the July minutes of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelseas housing and property scrutiny committee, KCTMO carried out some repairs and continue to monitor the situation. It is too early to say whether the problem has been fully resolved and here responsibility lies for the cause. It is possible that the flaw that has been rectified is not the primary cause.
The cause of the surges, which are now likely to be reviewed following claims that last weeks flame started when nearby residents fridge ran up in flames, were just one of many concerns about fire security that the residents have raised with KCTMO down the years. As far back as 2004 they flagged up issues such as the buildings emergency lighting system, which was supposed to activate in the event of a fire.
KCTMO denied there was a problem. But an independent consultancy it hired to look into the matter disagreed and issued a series of urgent recommendations for how the organizations of the system had to be improved. An evaluation five years ago suggested monthly inspections of fire extinguishers were not being carried out. In some occurrences, the extinguishers had not been tested for years.
More lately the Grenfell Action Group( GAG ), which represents the interests of the largely immigrant renters who lived in the tower, warned about the fire threat were imposed by discarded rubbish, and complained that parked vehicles were blocking access for the emergency services. The councils much-vaunted 10 m two-year transformation of the tower completed in 2016 was another source of concern.
In an email sent in 2014 to the chief flame officer at Kensington fire station, the states members of GAG used to say residents feared the improvement works had turned the building into a fire trap. He wrote: There is only one entry and exit to the tower block itself and, in the event of a flame, the London fire brigade could only gain access to the entryway to the building by climbing four flights of narrow stairs. On top of this, the fire escape exit on the walkway level has now been sealed. Residents of Grenfell Tower do not have any confidence that our build has been satisfactorily assessed to cope with the new improvement works.
Angry that their concerns appeared to be falling on deaf ears, in June 2016 the residents association attended the councils housing and property scrutiny committee and let rend. They presented a survey suggesting that 90% of them were unhappy with the improvement works and that 68% of them believed they had been lied to, threatened or pressured by KCTMO, which they accused of serial incompetence.
In a horribly prescient blog post, written last November, they said that they had reached the conclusion that merely an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to result that they are able to shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.
Time, and a public investigation, will help establish whether a lax flame security culture was operating at Grenfell Tower. But it is clear that the failings that resulted in last weeks catastrophic loss of life are not confined to one organisation or one London borough. Tragically for the main victims, the latter are manifold, the results of systemic tensions that spring from trying to provide that most basic of wants shelter at a time when budgets are stretched and politicians priorities lie elsewhere.
On New Years Eve 2016 a huge fire rent through Dubais luxury Address Downtown Hotel, a 72 -storey tower that stands opposite the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building. The Downtown blaze followed fires at two other landmark Dubai houses, the Marina Torch and the Tamweel Tower.
As with fires that devastated houses in other parts of the Countries of the middle east, China, France, Turkey, and now Grenfell Tower, the buildings exterior cladding is believed to have been a factor in the spread of the flames. But concerns about the increasing employ of cheaper, synthetic composites in place of conventional building materials, such as steel and specific, are not new.
In 1991, the flammability of garbing was a key factor in the fire that destroyed an apartment block in Knowsley Heights, Liverpool. In 1999, expert witness to the environment, transport and regional affairs committee, including the Fire Brigades Union and the Loss Prevention Council the technological consultants to the insurance industry suggested that the guidelines on clothing were inadequate.
The Building Research Establishment, which advises the governmental forces on safety and carries out exams on building materials, agreed that the existing guidance was far from being totally adequate.
Alarmed at the implications, the committee wrote to councils asking to receive from you assurances that any clothing systems which may be used on any buildings, particularly multistorey tower blocks, in your area are not in any way susceptible to the risk of serious fire spread on the face of, or instantly behind the cladding.
But this latest alarm bell clearly ringing did not stop the trend for cladding the outside of Britains ageing tower blocks. Not merely did cladding help insulate the towers, letting governments to meet energy-saving targets, it transformed the concrete behemoths that mushroomed across urban Britain in the 60 s and 70 s and were viewed as unsightly compared with their glass-and-steel successors.
Grenfell Towers 10 m makeover insured it encased in aluminium composite panels that have a synthetic core and are manufactured by a subsidiary of a US firm, Arconic. Some of the more expensive cores are more flame resistant but Grenfell was fitted with a cheaper version, banned in the US for taller builds because of safety concerns. Some estimations suggest that the additional cost of fitting the fire-resistant product would have been as little as 5,000.
Rydon, the contractor that oversaw the renovations, having taken the contract from another firm, Leadbitter, whose original 11.6 m quote for the job was considered too high, insisted that the work met all fire regulations. And Harley Facades, the company that fitted the members of the commission, said in a statement soon after the fire: We are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.
Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com