I have made many efforts to discover how best to contribute to ensuring that a similar disaster to Grenfell can be avoided or, at least, foreseen and mitigated.
I have a specialist company that provides fire safety inspections and subsequently installs appropriate materials to prevent the spread of flames and smoke through voids carrying services (water/soil and vent pipes, gas and ventilation systems, and extract ductwork). There are a number of similar specialist companies, all of which have independent qualifications via government testing and certification laboratories, and whose status is known as “third party accreditation”. The use of such companies prevents the sort of disastrous events seen at Grenfell. Sadly, there is no current legal obligation upon building owners and contractors to use accredited contractors. Instead, they are allowed to employ and utilise their own untrained labour to obtain and install potentially unsuitable products, and my company has hundreds of photos of such deadly practices.
More to the point of the failure to ascertain the reasons and routes for the extensive fire spread at Grenfell; from day one, I tried to identify the responsible agencies investigating the fire. All were highly elusive and/or have employees who are either hiding or unwilling to speak outside a narrow and presently ineffective investigative team.
The problem with the cladding comprises a number of issues: the flammability of the components is established, and government regulations perfectly well cover this element in their document “Approved Document B”; in the event of a fire, in order to prevent the spread in a ventilated rain screen, cavity barriers must be installed within the cladding at all floor levels and compartment wall junctions. Whether or not this vital installation was carried out can be checked in seconds by opening sections of the cladding in those areas, which remained unaffected by fire and smoke damage. A simple operation, which could have been done weeks ago via examination by a specialist, does immediately bring focus upon the building control inspectors and a simple requirement to view the records of their site inspections.
Similarly, there will be records, presumably, of their inspections to verify that those structures (riser shafts) were designed to be the routes to supply all necessary services to all flats on all floors. If this simple check is not carried out and appropriately actioned, these routes become concentrated “chimneys” for a fire to, very rapidly, rage throughout the building structure. As with the cladding, the generic standard of “fire containment” has been available for inspection in areas below the seat of the fire, from the time the building was deemed sufficiently safe to be entered. It is very difficult to believe that there are no professional passive fire protection agencies who have been approached by local and government investigators and, certainly, should this be the case, some indefensible cover-ups have taken place.
My company, Fire Protection Compliance Ltd, works very closely with many accommodation suppliers and housing associations who want to provide safety for their residents but, inevitably, there exist organisations driven by a single factor…
– Barry Church, Managing Director