Guest post: Of course it happened because those people were poor

Originally a comment by Steamshovel mama on Less than £5,000.

they could only have used materials that met current safety standards


Because nobody has ever cut corners, bought cheap materials or employed under-educated, underpaid site workers who don’t know what they’re supposed to be using.

The use of thermal cladding is covered by Regulation B4(1) of The Building regulations 2010. It states:

The external walls of the building shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls and from one building to another, having regard to the height, use, and position of the building

You know, so the building doesn’t go up like a fucking candle, exactly as we can all see happening in the video of Grenfell Tower. The dangers of external cladding contributing to flame spread resulting in multiple secondary fires is well known. You can check out Section 3 of BR135 – Fire Performance of External Thermal Insulation for Walls of Multistorey Buildings which goes into a great deal of detail about the mechanisms of this.

The point is, we know what happens when inappropriate cladding is used. We also know how to prevent it.

1. Use Materials of Limited Combustibility (MOLC) for all elements of the cladding system, including insulation, internal lining board, and external facing material. There is an official definition of MOLC.

2. Buy and use a whole cladding system that has been assessed according to the acceptance criteria of BR135. Evidence must be presented that the system has demonstrated compliance with BS8414:1 or BS8414:2 which lay down the requirements fopr non-loadbearing or load-bearing walls. This test must be carried out by a UKAS accredited testing body and supported by a classification report.

3. If no actual fire test data exist for a particular system, the client must submit a desktop study report from a suitably qualified fire specialist staing that in their opinion BR135 criteria would be met by the proposed system. This report must be backed by test data from a suitable UKAS testing body (BRE, Chiltern Fire, Warrington Fire etc). The report must specifically reference the tests that have been carried out.

4. If none of the above options are possible a holistic fire engineered approach for the whole may be considered according to BS 7974.

The last is usually used only in new builds and would not be considered suitable for a building like Grenfell Tower.

And the point of all this is that if any of those approaches had been taken, the pattern of burning observed – where the cladding burned rapidly and spread laterally as well as vertically, creating secondary fire sources as it spread, would not have been possible. There would have been a slower vertical spread, resisted by the cladding, where the fire could not use the gap between the cladding and the building to travel.

And, of course it happened because those people were poor. They have no power or influence and, if the government is more inclined to wink at dodgy landlords and builders than to protect them, they are disproportionately affected by poor building and rackrent practices. Even though tower blocks are council (social) accommodation and should be there as a way of supporting people on lower incomes.

The whole thing stinks. And I don’t think the Indie is out of line. I think they’re being good journalists and raising an issue the government would really rather they didn’t.

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