As we come up to the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower blaze which claimed the lives of 71 people on 14 June last year, a report from five fire safety experts has been released, explaining how the fire started, spread and why so many people were killed.
As part of the report, Dr Barbara Lane, an expert commissioned by the Grenfell Tower inquiry, delivered an assessment of the refurbishment which finished a year before the fire.
Dr Lane found that the rainscreen cladding used on the building was not compliant with fire safety standards and the materials used on the building were not capable of preventing a fire from spreading.
Professor Luke Bisby, another expert who assessed the effectiveness of the building’s cladding, also found a number of problems regarding the refurbishment work that was carried out on Grenfell before the fire. The Structural Engineer Professor pointed out that combustible insulation, the presence of cavities and the use of combustible window frames added to the speed and spread of the blaze. Both Prof. Bisby and Dr Lane agreed that the main cause of the fire spreading was the polyethylene-filled material used between the aluminium panels in the cladding.
The report revealed that the fire lift for emergency workers was not functional and that the ‘stay put’ advice residents had been given had “effectively failed” less than 40 minutes after the outbreak of the fire. Dr Lane said there was “an early need for a total evacuation” due to the rapid spread of flames across the face of the tower.
According to Dr Lane there was no evidence that the cladding system was ever performance-tested. She wrote: “I have found no evidence yet that any member of the design team or the construction team ascertained the fire performance of the rainscreen cladding system materials, nor understood how the assembly performed in fire.
“I have found no evidence that Building Control were either informed or understood how the assembly performed in fire.
“Further, I have found no evidence that the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) risk assessment recorded the fire performance of the rainscreen cladding system, nor have I found evidence that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) risk assessment recorded its fire performance.”
What happens now?
There has been no official date for the demolition of Grenfell Tower. Site Manager, Michael Lockwood, said that he imagines “the building will stay up throughout 2018.” ‘The Wrap’ or protective sheeting that has been put around part of the tower since October is set to stay until the beginning of next year.
An initial report on the cause of the fire and why it spread so rapidly is expected to be delivered by Easter next year.