Unanswered Questions About London's Tower Block Tragedy

Grenfell Tower

Housing and building experts will face many months of questions in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower blaze.   As the horrific images were being broadcast, the finger of blame was being pointed at the building’s recent refurbishment – where cladding that had been fitted appeared to fuel the flames.   The cladding is not the only question that the public and authorities will ask for the inquiry promised by Theresa May. The probe will need to answer the following:   Is there a need to retrofit sprinklers in old blocks?
Due to its age, Grenfell Tower did not have sprinklers fitted. Had it been a new building, sprinklers would have been a requirement. Why wasn’t a sprinkler system retrofitted, as has been done in similar blocks before?   Why is cladding not fire retardant on both sides?
Some experts say that because the back of the cladding wasn’t fire protected, it acted like a chimney, sending intense heat up the building. There is no requirement for the back of cladding to be protected – but should this be reviewed?   Were residents’ concerns ignored?
Within hours of the fire starting, residents stated across the media that they had reported real concerns over the fire safety of the building, particularly that there was only one fire escape route. But it appears Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council ignored those concerns.   What has the government done about fire safety building regulations?
After the Lakanal House flats fire in 2009, where six people lost their life, the coroner said building regulations governing fire safety – set out in Approved Document B – were virtually impossible to understand. As this was a judge specialising in building disputes, should the government have acted immediately to review regulations? Should the recommendations from the Lakanal House enquiry have been taken more seriously?   Should people be advised to leave their flats? Unless directly affected by the fire, the operators advise that people should stay in their flats. In theory, a fire 10 floors below should not affect that resident. However, the people who died at Grenfell Tower were the ones who were told to stay in their flats and followed that advice. Those that didn't survived.


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