In a letter delivered to the Prime Minister today, leading fire safety experts and advocates have urged the government to implement immediately three important regulatory changes that will significantly improve fire safety for high-rise and high-risk buildings, such as schools, hospitals and care homes.
For these types of buildings, the fire safety experts urge the government to require immediately that:
- Only non-combustible cladding and insulation be installed;
- They be fitted with automatic fire sprinklers; and,
- All new buildings of these types have alternative escape routes.
Signatories include George Clarke (Architect); European Fire Sprinkler Network (EFSN); Jane Duncan, Chair, RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety and former President of the RIBA; Mineral Wool Manufacturers Association (MIMA); Ronnie King OBE, Honorary Administrative Secretary and Principal Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group and former Chief Fire Officer; British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA); Professor Richard Hull and Professor Anna Stec from the University of Central Lancashire; Professor Anne Power from the London School of Economics; and Sam Webb, Architect and RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety member.
No closer to safe fire regulation
The signatories acknowledge official reviews are underway, but 10 months on from the Grenfell fire the UK is no closer to a safer system of fire safety regulation. These steps would substantially reduce the risk still facing many buildings in the UK, and reassure the many families and individuals living and working in high risk buildings across the country.
Architect George Clarke comments: “The rules for how we build safe homes, offices, schools and hospitals have for many years been far too open to interpretation. This has led to poor design decisions that have compromised fire safety and put lives at risk. What we are arguing for could be implemented tomorrow, would be extremely effective in making buildings safer, and help prevent a tragedy such as Grenfell ever happening again.”
Third of towers still have unsafe cladding
Official figures released today on cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower show that across the country there remains 297 tower blocks over 18m with similar cladding to that used at Grenfell. 151 of these are social housing buildings. Of the social tower blocks affected, 34% of buildings have not had work started on removing or replacing the unsafe cladding. It seems that momentum is waning as, since last month, no additional social tower blocks have had Grenfell-style cladding replaced, and in total only seven have fully replaced the unsafe cladding – four per cent of social tower blocks affected.
Professor Richard Hull, Professor of Chemistry and Fire Science at University of Central Lancashire added: “Grenfell has left no doubt about the dangers of combustible facades on tall buildings. The recent ABI report shows the problems with the current testing regime. Until they are resolved, we cannot endanger more people by allowing combustible materials to be put on the outside of high rise and high-risk buildings.”