Grenfell Tower Fire London News, Inquiry, Building Photos, Property Development, Expert Witness, Review, Architect

Grenfell Tower Fire West London

Hackitt Interim Report: Block of Flats Development in North Kensington, British Capital City, England, UK

post updated 6 December 2021

Grenfell Inquiry: Grenfell driven by “agenda of deregulation”

Grenfell Tower London building facade cladding

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Update

The Fire Brigades Union lawyer for the inquiry has placed central importance on the “agenda of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation” as causing the disaster. Martin Seaward said that an agenda “which encouraged companies to behave recklessly towards building safety” was “actively and, regrettably, deliberately created by central government”.

The comments were made as part of the opening statements for Module 6 of Phase 2 of the inquiry, which is set to focus on government.
Seaward said that this agenda of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation had been in place for “more than four decades”, across multiple governments, and had “predictably… degraded public services such as building control and fire and rescue services, thereby [weakening] enforcement of these regimes, and led to the abolition of national bodies, ambiguity and confusion in the guidance which has been left unclarified, a culture of complacency created towards fire safety, both during and after building works, and private companies being enabled to put profit over people”.

He stated that, in turn, these factors “contributed to the systemic failure of the building and fire safety regimes, thereby enabling the installation of cheap and dangerous rainscreen cladding systems all over the UK, including at Grenfell Tower”.

Seaward specifically named the evolution of building safety regulation “Approved Document B [ADB] with ever greater complexity and flexibility, bringing concomitant ambiguity and scope for manipulation” as an issue here, with confusion around the ADB being “ruthlessly exploited by manufacturing companies for their own commercial self-interest” according to Seaward.

He also pointed to the introduction of the Building Regulations 1985, which “replaced the previously detailed technical and prescriptive regulations, covering at least 300 pages, with ‘functional requirements’ covering just 25 pages, supplemented by guidance in the ADB”. This introduction of “functional” requirements was described by Seaward as a “major change”, which brought with it “significant flexibility” that in turn “could be and was exploited by some in the construction industry”.

Seaward also noted that after the Lakanal House fire, a 2009 fire in which six people died, none of the coroner’s “recommendations were implemented either effectively or at all either by Lord Pickles [Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the recommendations were made], his successors or anyone else in government” – which Seaward said was “the consequence of the government’s deregulatory agenda”. The recommendations included ones relating to “stay put” guidance, guidance on high-rise firefighting, and sprinklers.

Information provided by Fire Brigades Union, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 7AE, United Kingdom

Previously on e-architect

post updated 13 May 2021

Grenfell Tower Demolition

UK Government community consultation about Grenfell Tower demolition

The British government is due to begin consulting with bereaved families, survivors and the local community on whether to take down Grenfell Tower.

In a letter to residents and families in the community, officials said: “Following important advice from structural engineers about the condition of the tower, we need to consider this summer if, and when, the tower should be carefully taken down to maintain safety.”

The letter from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said that before any decision is made, advice from engineering experts will be shared with the local community, who will also be allowed to put questions to the engineers.

“I want to reassure you that it will be at least a year before we begin to implement any decision, which means there will be no change to the tower before the fifth anniversary in 2022.

“The work of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will continue during this period,” the letter continued, signed by Alistair Watters, director of the Grenfell site and programme at MHCLG.

MHCLG will be holding online meetings between 17 May and 21 July.

It will ask the community about their priorities and preferences. It will also share information from engineers about the condition of the tower, and about its consultations with the Metropolitan Police and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also noted, “The independent Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission is developing a community-led vision for a memorial, and their work is progressing. Bereaved families, survivors and the local community will continue to be at the heart of determining what the future memorial will be.”

25 September 2020

Grenfell Tower inquiry: combustible insulation product

The inquiry heard that safe mineral wool product was ruled out because ‘aspirational’ efficiency target would not have been hit.

A Mechanical and Electrical systems consultant (M&E Engineer) on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project recommended the use of combustible insulation on the outside of the block as a way to meet an “aspirational” thermal efficiency target.

30 July 2020

Grenfell Tower inquiry: combustible insulation

Rydon’s refurbishment director on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, Stephen Blake, has admitted to being “haunted” by the lack of scrutiny of the ill-fated project’s cladding and window designs.

Stephen Blake said that in hindsight key elements of the tower block’s refurbishment had been presumed to be correct when they were not.

He also advised that he believed it had been original project architect Studio E’s responsibility to arrange – and pay for – any specialist fire safety advice required, even after Rydon was appointed main contractor on the project and Studio E novated to it.

Fire specialist Exova was hired by the client (Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation) and produced an outline fire safety strategy for the refurbishment in 2013.

However the firm was not novated once Rydon was appointed in 2014.

23 July 2020
Grenfell Tower inquiry: combustible foam boards

The refurbishment specification was to pack the gaps around the windows with non-combustible Rockwool insulation fibre, but Mark Dixon’s company, SD Plastering, instead used combustible foam boards apparently.

The Rydon manager in charge of the project, Simon Lawrence told the inquiry that he didn’t read a bill of works that showed SD Plastering planned to use Celotex panels, at odds with the safer specification. This was in breach of building regulations. The inquiry has already concluded that the foam insulation in the window surrounds “contributed to the rate and extent of vertical flame spread”.

When Simon Lawrence inspected the works in 2015, there were missing finishes and gaps. Emails at the time showed he thought it was “a disaster”.

Simon Lawrence received an email from the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) – which ran the tower in North Kensington – seeking clarity on whether the new cladding would resist a fire.

There is no evidence that he or anyone from Rydon replied to that email.

22 July 2020
Grenfell Tower residents branded as “rebels”

The builder in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment branded residents who questioned the quality of works as “rebels” and complained that they were “persistent and aggressive”.

Evidence has exposed the toxic atmosphere between contractors and occupants of the west London council block. The inquiry also heard there were allegations of harassment and threats by employees of Rydon and of the K&C tenant management organisation (TMO).

Rydon manager Simon Lawrence admitted in an internal email that the site was “poorly performing”. He also apparently noted they were using “cheap incompetent sub-contractors”.

Neil Reed, head of project delivery at the landlord’s agent, complained: “I have never worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance.”

11 July 2020
Grenfell Tower inquiry: Lead fire consultant ‘ignored’ cladding email

The lead fire safety consultant of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment ignored documents outlining proposed cladding and insulation materials.

Terry Ashton, of fire engineering company Exova, said he did not read an email from Studio E architects detailing a planned cladding system because he was not the “primary recipient”.

He also failed to read the architect’s progress report.

The inquiry has concluded that cladding fuelled the 2017 fire in west London.

Grenfell Tower cladding – for top and bottom of the building, the principal cladding appears to be noted as ‘3’ (medium grey, ACM) and ‘5’ (white, rainscreen) in the top left key, ie ACM panels:
Grenfell Tower cladding aluminium rainscreen panels
elevation courtesy of architects via planning portal

The email from architects Studio E on 23 October 2012 included attachments containing details and drawings of a planned cladding system.

Asked why, he told the hearing that people are often copied into emails on big projects in “a sort of scattergun approach”.

He also did not read the architect’s progress report which he was sent on 31 October 2012, and failed to mention plans to cover the tower block in cladding in his first fire safety report published on the same day.

He had no formal training as a fire engineer, despite working as a fire consultant for 25 years.

7 July 2020
Grenfell Tower inquiry: Fire ‘inextricably linked with race’

The inquiry returned this week after a four-month break due to coronavirus.

Leslie Thomas, who is representing survivors and bereaved families, said the 2017 fire was “inextricably linked with race”.

There were 72 victims.

Grenfell Tower floor plans, assumed to be earlier proposals from 2012:
Grenfell Tower Building floor plans
Drawing-952258 – plans courtesy of architects via planning portal

Legal submissions made to the inquiry explain there were 4 visitors to the tower among the dead and also a stillborn baby and then adds: “Of the remaining 67, 57 were from BAME (black, Asian and other ethnic minority) communities.

On Monday, a senior fire safety engineer advised the inquiry he did not think putting cladding on Grenfell Tower would pose any “issues” for safety.

30 & 29 Jan 2020

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Immunity

Grenfell Tower Firms Request Immunity Over Evidence

Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry Part Two

Grenfell Inquiry Expert Witness Controversy post in BD

6 Jun 2018
Grenfell Tower Refurb Architects Attacked

Studio E Architects is among a number of firms accused of attempting to derail the Grenfell Tower Inquiry with a wall of ‘corporate silence’ after it failed to provide an opening statement to the hearing, reports the Architects’ Journal.

Many of the 19 ‘core participant’ firms involved in the £10m refit of the tower on the Lancaster West estate have refused to comment on their work until they have full disclosure of documents, the inquiry heard yesterday.

They face a barrage of criticism from lawyers representing survivors and the bereaved, for failing to set out their position, especially on the key question of compliance.

In a blistering attack on the companies, Stephanie Barwise QC said: ‘these corporates have no desire to assist this inquiry, even though their participation could save lives in the immediate future.’

e-architect approached Studio E Architects for comment shortly after the fire but never received a reply.

18 Apr 2018
Grenfell Tower Hackitt Review

18 Dec 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire Interim Report

Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review of the Building Regulations and Fire Safety

Association for Project Safety (APS) fully supports the interim report of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review of the Building Regulations and welcomes the next phase.

In response to the interim findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of fire and building regulations, Bobby Chakravarthy, President of the Association for Project Safety said:

“The Association for Project Safety agrees with Dame Judith Hackitt that safer buildings start with good design and ensuring corners are not cut and clear regulations are established and consistently applied. But, for this we have to untangle the mare’s nest of complex and sometimes competing regulations, critically ensuring everyone involved in the design and risk management process is equipped with the relevant and up to date skills and education to build safe.”

Interim findings of Grenfell Review

A review of building regulations ordered after the Grenfell Tower fire has found the system is “not fit for purpose” and open to abuse by those trying to save money, reports The Guardian today.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report into building safety called for an overhaul of the construction industry to put safety above cutting costs.

In a foreword, Hackitt said she was shocked by some of the practices she had uncovered. “The mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems and shortcomings of others must stop,” she wrote.

Her report highlights concerns about increased privatisation of the building inspection regime leading to safety being compromised and a reduction in expertise within local authorities.

Grenfell Tower Fire Interim Report in The Guardian

18 December 2017
RIBA responds to Hackitt Interim Report

RIBA responds to Interim Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has welcomed the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Interim Report but has highlighted the need to go much further, specifically in terms of making real and meaningful change to the core building regulations guidance covering fire safety, which is needed as a matter of great urgency.

Immediate Past President of RIBA and Chair of the RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, Jane Duncan says:
“I’m pleased that Dame Judith Hackitt recognises the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose and that there is a lack clarity of roles and responsibilities in the construction industry. The RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety strongly recommends that the final review should require a named person or organisation to hold prime responsibility for the oversight of fire safety in the design and construction of any building project. It is disappointing that the interim review has not called for an immediate prohibition on the use any combustible materials in the external wall construction of high-rise buildings. This means we continue with this grey-area in regards to fire-safety”

The RIBA welcome that the report seeks:

• Better definition and allocation of roles and responsibilities within the building and fire regulatory system, with defined duty holders. The RIBA hopes that the final report will require a named person or organisation with prime responsibility for oversight of fire-safe design and construction on any building project
• Increased independent oversight of the quality of construction work
• Stronger compliance and enforcement of building control
• Raised levels of competence and accreditation of those involved in design, construction and maintenance of higher risk buildings

It is also good to see a recognition by Dame Judith of the importance of the ‘golden thread’ of original design intent, the integrity of which must be maintained in any building project or subsequent refurbishment – in order to avoid fragmentation of design responsibility with risks poorer quality outcomes.

However, it is disappointing that whilst the report recognises the complexity and lack of clarity in the current building regulations guidance, it shies away from introducing immediate and effective changes to the current fire safety guidance, Approved Document B.

The RIBA would like to see:

• An immediate prohibition on the use any combustible materials in the external wall construction of high-rise buildings
• A greater role for sprinklers as an active life safety measure in residential buildings
• Requirements for at least two staircases, offering alternative means of escape in high-rise residential buildings

Interim Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

To read the RIBA’s evidence and recommendations to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety visit:
Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – RIBA

8 Aug 2017

Kensington Stories Documentary Film

Ladbroke Grove Youth Charity Focus on four local buildings

Kensal House, Trellick Tower, Stanley Gardens and Lancaster West

Young people look at West London’s skyline through the lens of a documentary

SPID Theatre Company, an award winning youth charity based in Ladbroke Grove, is looking at West London’s skyline afresh following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The result is Kensington Stories, a new documentary film made as part of SPID’s Living History project. SPID Theatre Company has achieved National Press on multiple occasions for their work, specialising in engaging hard-to-reach audiences with heritage, the arts and with each other. The project will build on their previous Living History Projects: Kensal Voices, Kensal Voices Reloaded, In Transit, Trellick Tales and Reimagining Goldfinger.

The film focuses on community, the management of buildings and the event of the Grenfell Tower fire that happened earlier this year. From recording oral history interviews, led by Rib Davis, SPID has worked with filmmaker Susanna Fasciolo and producer Ioana Constantinescu to create a fifteen minute film about four local buildings: Kensal House, Trellick Tower, Stanley Gardens and Lancaster West, where Grenfell Tower is situated. Each of these buildings is listed and protected, except Lancaster West.

Despite not being listed, Grenfell is extremely significant to the work that SPID is creating, work that champions local voices and shared histories. SPID itself is based in one of West London’s very own listed buildings, adding relevance to this year’s project. The oral history testimonies given by residents who live within each of these estates compose the soundtrack for the film; their own stories and opinions colouring the background to this documentary.

The entire project has been influenced by local young people aged 13-25, who participate in weekly workshops researching the history and architecture of the borough. This project is a combination of historical and architectural knowledge, enriched by personal stories about an area of London with extremely diverse buildings.

The Kensington Stories film will premiere on 9th December at 3pm at Kensal House, followed by a Q and A with the young people and makers of the film, and accompanied by food from the Goldfinger Factory, a café near Trellick Tower.

“I just love living in this Borough…when the rain clouds come in and you can see the shadows over the various parts of London, it all makes sense” – Lou D’Arcy, Trellick Tower Resident

“Based in West London’s Kensal House estate, SPID shares a landlord with Grenfell. This project champions local estate voices and makes the case for listening to and empowering them” – Helena Thompson, Artistic Director

The Film Screening is free entry, but places are limited, so book your ticket by emailing or calling us on 0208 969 4570

8 Aug 2017

Grenfell fire Criminal Charges

Criminal charges carrying lengthy prison sentences not ruled out by DPP

The UK Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has not ruled out possible criminal charges carrying lengthy prison sentences against individuals over the Grenfell Tower fire, report The Guardian.

In her first public comments since the disaster, Alison Saunders said investigations were at a very early stage. All options remained open, but it could take months before charging decisions can be made, she said.

Gross negligence manslaughter is among offences prosecutors could consider if police find sufficient evidence. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life in prison for those found to have high levels of culpability.

Alison Saunders, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, said: “All of us want to see justice done … It is one of those tragedies where everybody will want to do as much as they possibly can in order to help both those who continue to be residents and those who died in the fire.

The DPP’s comments follow the publication of a Scotland Yard letter which said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that corporate manslaughter offences had been committed by Kensington and Chelsea council, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the latter of which ran Grenfell tower.

Read more in The Guardian article – Grenfell Tower Criminal Charges

27 Jul 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire Update

Police Investigation Update

Police investigating the Grenfell Tower fire say they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect that corporate manslaughter offences may have been committed, report the BBC.

It means senior executives from the council and the tenant management organisation that ran the block are likely to be interviewed under caution.

A letter from the Met Police to residents said officers had “seized a huge amount of material”.

Organisations guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter are liable to an “unlimited fine”.
Individuals cannot be charged with corporate manslaughter, an offence which is intended to work “in conjunction” with other forms of accountability.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenancy Management Organisation have been notified that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter.

However Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, said the punishment for corporate manslaughter, a fine, would not represent justice: “Gross negligence manslaughter carries a punishment of prison time, and I hope that the police and the CPS are considering charges of manslaughter caused by gross negligence”.

More positively the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign group, said the development would help increase levels of trust between the police and the community.

10 Jul 2017
Police confirm 255 residents escaped blaze

Investigators say 350 people lived in the west London block but 14 were not there when the building went up in flames, report The Independent.

Police said they do not expect the death toll to rise much further.

Detectives also revealed the tower was made up of predominantly one and two bedroom flats, which would account for the lower than expected occupancy.

Previous estimates put between 400 and 600 people living inside the tower.

source: Grenfell Tower Fire Update

8 Jul 2017

Grenfell Tower Publc Inquiry

Grenfell Tower inquiry public hearings in September

The Grenfell Tower fire inquiry hopes to hold its first public hearings into the cause of the disaster in September as it prepares to seize council planning archives, report The Guardian.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chairman, is expected to hold further meetings with bereaved relatives, local residents, survivors and interested organisations next week in order to agree terms of reference.

Until those terms are approved by the prime minister, Theresa May, and lodged with parliament, investigators cannot begin taking evidence.

source: Grenfell Tower Publc Inquiry

29 Jun 2017

Grenfell Tower Planning Conditions

Samples of Grenfell Tower Cladding

An interesting article by Ian Abley, focusing on two of the planning conditions, 3 & 4, and how they were processed by the architects, but also on a critical change to the window position half a year after planning:

Grenfell Tower planning application PP/12/04097 was determined by delegated powers.

ACM Panels

Samples of the ACM panels were requested and should be in the council’s stores. Apparently the responses to the Conditions note the panel outer surface but crucially do not identify the core material.

The most recent of two references to the ACM panel specification is apparently the Studio E “Material Palette” dated 25 September 2014 and uploaded as Drawing-Approved-1332326 prescribed the ACM face as “Smoke Silver Metallic Duragloss 5000”

Our brief research shows this is an Arconic product: Duragloss 5000

The link to ‘DURAGLOSS® 5000 Technical Data’ goes to a ‘Content Not Found’ page.

Design Change Made in January 2015

Then there was a Non-Material Amendment made to approval PP/12/04097 after CON/14/04024. On 2 January 2015 proposed changes to the design by Studio E and planning consultants IBI Group were accepted by RBKC planners as NMA/14/08597. The design changes appear very material in that they re-position the windows, out from the existing concrete into the (rainscreen) cladding zone.

Ian notes that the planned separation of the window from the concrete meant that interfaces – “window, head and cill extrusions, foams, perimeter filler insulation, water, air and vapour barrier, and lining boards” – became technically critical for fire safety.

The several materials and products within the interface gap became the only construction stopping a fire inside a flat from reaching the cavity and cladding.

In other words, the late change to the window position, moving it out from the solid concrete structure, meant it was weak due to the ‘filled gaps’ around the sides where fire could break through.

Ian goes on to warn, “Planners should know something about the existence of such fire risks. But if the planners were not technically aware of this potential problem at the interface gap at every window opening, and had not asked for Building Control advice at the planning application stage, IBI Group and Studio E should have been aware.”

Tangentially, the title block on the architects’s detail drawing, references an adjacent school building, why is this? –
London Architects detail drawing

Approved Document Volume 2 of Part B Fire Safety in the Building Regulations for England and Wales

Finally, Ian questions the wording of Paragraph 12.7, subtitled “Insulation Materials/Products”:

‘In a building with a storey 18m or more above ground level any insulation product, filler material (not including gaskets, sealants and similar) etc. used in the external wall construction should be of limited combustibility.’

He cautions that it is badly worded.

The “not including” list is open to abuse as products and materials “similar” to gaskets and sealants may be combustible – such as membranes, tapes, sealants and adhesives – combining to form a dangerous level of fire load.

source: Grenfell Tower Planning Application Details

29 Jun 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Chairman

The new chairman of the Grenfell Tower inquiry said he is doubtful the process would be as wide-ranging as some residents hope after meeting survivors, many of whom were sceptical about his appointment.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick said his inquiry would look at “basic factual questions” about what caused the fire rather than broader problems.

“I’ve been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development, in order to make recommendations as to how this sort of thing can be prevented in the future,” he said.

23 Jun 2017

Grenfell Tower Building Cladding

Grenfell Tower manslaughter charges

23 Jun 2017 – Grenfell Tower fire: police considering manslaughter charges.

Detectives say building’s insulation and cladding tiles failed fire safety tests and they are establishing if use was illegal, report The Guardian.

Officers had established the initial cause of the fire was a Hotpoint FF175BP fridge-freezer and that it was not started deliberately.

“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the tests started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.”

“What we are being told at the moment by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is that the cladding and insulation failed all safety tests.”

The Police are reviewing every company involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, and have seized documents and materials from a number of organisations.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the government would fund tests on up to 100 towers a day. the DCLG estimates that about 600 high-rises across the UK have been clad.

Grenfell Tower Police Report

Grenfell Tower Cladding Exposed

23 Jun 2017 – Were the horizontal and vertical fire-stops installed correctly at Grenfell Tower?

A photo on Studio E’s website shows one facade of Grenfell Tower.

click on photo for large size, 5824 pixels, left in super-large format to aid viewing, save and zoom in:
Grenfell Tower London cladding exposed

Grenfell Tower Cladding – a spin-off post from this page focused on the cladding

Grenfell building entrance
photograph : Metropolitan Police

Grenfell Tower Building Safety

The Truth about Grenfell Tower Event

Architects for Social Housing using Eventbrite to ticket The Truth about Grenfell Tower on Thursday 22nd June in Stockwell.

Please join Architects for Social Housing and share what we collectively know so far about the technical and political decisions that led to the Grenfell Tower fire; reassure residents about the safety of post-war tower blocks against the fear being spread by the media; and discuss how to can counteract this disaster being used by politicians to promote the demolition of London’s council estates for profit.

Everybody welcome, residents, architects, engineers, fire-safety specialists, planners, housing campaigners. Please share widely and invite your friends.

The Truth about Grenfell Tower Event

Thu 22 June 2017 19:00 – 21:00 BST

Residents Centre, Cotton Gardens Estate, Kennington Lane, SE11 4HW

Architects for Social Housing (ASH) was set up in March 2015 in order to respond architecturally to London’s housing ‘crisis’. ASH are a working collective of architects, urban designers, engineers, surveyors, planners, film-makers, photographers, web designers, artists, writers and housing campaigners operating with developing ideas under set principles.

Flat interior after Grenfell fire
photograph : Metropolitan Police

Grenfell Tower Campaigners for Safety

20 Jun – In an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised May’s decision to open a public inquiry, but urged her “to ensure, in the terms of reference of the Inquiry, that an interim report is published this summer, at the latest, and that the terms of reference include all aspects of fire safety standards and inspection in high-rise towers.” He continued, “I would seek an assurance that if the Inquiry or police investigation finds any individual or organization to have been negligent in their duties, then they will be prosecuted.”

“This issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors. It is crucial that other risks from renovation works are urgently and properly investigated, for example protection between floors. And we need to strengthen standards and recall processes around white goods, given the fire risk they can present.”

19 Jun – death toll rises to 79.

Of the 18 people in hospital 9 are in critical care, report the BBC.

Selection of photos released by the Police:

Grenfell Tower burnt out flat after fire
photograph : Metropolitan Police

18 Jun – Two women feared dead in the Grenfell Tower tragedy were allegedly threatened with legal action after they campaigned for improved fire safety.

Mariem Elgwahry, 27, and Nadia Choucair, 33, may have received letters ordering them to stop their campaign for improved safety.

Both women were fighting the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation for building improvements, with help from the Radical Housing Network (RHN), The Mirror reports.

RHN told the newspaper: “The TMO’s response was to threaten tenants with legal action and send out letters. Nadia and Mariem would have received them too.”

Last night British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had ordered councils to complete urgent safety checks on all high-rise buildings.

Grenfell Tower elevation and section of a typical floor:
Grenfell Tower elevation and section of a typical floor
Revised Drawing-952306.pdf?- image courtesy of architects via RBKC planning portal

Grenfell Tower section through window of a typical floor:
Grenfell Tower window wall section of a typical floor
extract from Revised Drawing-952306.pdf?- image courtesy of architects via RBKC planning portal

A summary of those believed to be involved in the refurbishment works (comments welcome):

– Client: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea TMO
– Client’s Agent: IBI Taylor Young

– Architects: Studio E
– Consulting QS: Appleyards

– Main contractor: Rydon
– Building facade sub-contractor: Harley Facades UK
– Reynobond PE cladding supplier: Omnis Exteriors
– Insulation manufacturer/supplier: Celotex

Grenfell Tower floor plans, assumed to be proposals, we suggest the key plan is bottom right labelled ‘Typical Residential Floor’, it shows lifts, stair and apartments all share a single lobby. Footage from early on the 14th of June appears to show this lobby filled with smoke when a resident opened the door on an upper floor:
Grenfell Tower refurbishment plans dated 2013
Revised Drawing-1094410.pdf – image courtesy of architects via RBKC planning portal

We posted the link to the refurbishment planning drawings on the morning of the 14th but some readers maybe missed it, so here it is again, we suggest you scroll down to the latest draiwngs dated 2013:

Grenfell Tower refurbishment planning drawings

17 Jun 2017

Grenfell Tower Building Faliure

Grenfell Tower Fire Building Failings
At least 58 people are presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower disaster Police confirmed. It is an increase of 28 on the number of confirmed victims.

The building refurbishment is now part of a criminal investigation.

We are trying to focus on building-related issues here, to try to learn from this awful incident and prevent it ever happening again. There are various strands to discuss:

1. analysing what went wrong with the building, from cladding type, cladding fixing, to smoke-filled single stair, fire lobbies, fire doors and the fire alarm.

2. drawing some tentative conclusions, if we wait months until a massive hard-to-digest inquiry report the media focus will have gone and some opportunities for change with it.

3. some suggestions about what needs to happen with other high-rise buildings around the world, but focused on UK council housing in towers.

We certainly don’t have all the answers, therefore welcome expert input from other professionals.

Grenfell Tower Facade Section Build Up on Typical Floor

In more detail:


cladding type – typical floors have 3 main components: windows, rainscreen and ACM panels.
It is the latter that seem to exhibit the most combustion. from outside face inwards: Aluminium sandwich panels appear to have a flammable core, with small air gap allowing chimney effect, and flammable foam insulation behind applied to concrete facade from 1974.

cladding fixing – metal brackets shown on planning portal section, unverified reports of flammable timber battens

single stair – obviously inherently dangerous, but why did it fill with smoke?

fire lobbies – lift and stair share a lobby with flats, see plans

fire doors – if working then should have been negligible smoke in stair (just from when self-closing door is opened for egress)

fire alarm – reports suggest it didn’t go off, why?

Lower floor plan layout (ie not typical residential floor), existing on left, proposed in colour on right with new entranc lobby:
Grenfell Tower London floor plan layout
image courtesy of architects via planning portal

Grenfell Tower Building materials from outside in – not fully confirmed as a whole but identified in various cross-referenced reports:

a. Aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding (‘3’ in key – Reynobond PE

note ‘5’ in the elevation key, aluminium rainscreen (white panels) make up about half of the cladding).

In the cropped photo below note how the white rainscreen panels appear more intact than the grey ACM panels, logical as the latter have a greater fire load:
Grenfell Tower Aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding and rainscreen cladding
cropped photo by Natalie Oxford, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Further info on cladding regulations in other Western countries:

– German construction companies have been banned from using plastic-filled cladding, such as Reynobond PE, on towers more than 22 metres high since the 1980s.

– US building codes restrict the use of metal-composite panels without flame-retardant cores on buildings above 15 metres.

b. air gap, probably criss-crossed by brackets holding outer ACM panels.

c. Celotex insulation applied to existing concrete walls, assumed to be 150mm of Celotex FR5000 and / or RS5000, no backing substrate shown on planning portal section.

Product datasheet: notes it is tested with both 12mm fibre cement panes and 2×12.5mm plasterboard. But the section (planning portal) and reports suggest it was installed on the tower without a substrate. If no substrate then the fire test approval appears meaningless.

The reasons it passes the test are therefore different to the product used in the 72-storey The Address, Dubai – where the testing flaws were exposed:
meaningless ACM fire test

It seems the Celotex material may be non-FR PIR. Nevertheless the product is certified with reference to BS8414-2 via the performance criteria of BR135 (product datasheet).

There is some suggestion of a leak from the gas riser, there is not enough information on it to discuss at this stage in our view.

Grenfell Tower London building
photo courtesy of SE9

Link ref. tests (BS 8414-2, BR 135 see commentary by Sarah Colwell on pp 13-16 of this IFP magazine issue: Fire Performance of external cladding systems.

The article linked above suggests there are around 5000 blocks of flats in England representing around 300,000 homes, a lot of people especially if extrapolated to the rest fo the world.

Grenfell Tower Fundraising page on

Grenfell Tower Fire West London Building News

Grenfell Tower Fire Updates
16 Jun – 30 confirmed killed, including one person who has died in hospital.

The death toll could rise above 100.

More than 70 people have been named by relatives as missing, and also 12 people remain in critical care.

Protesters entered Kensington town hall this evening demanding justice.

Grenfell Tower News – updates at The Guardian

We welcome architectural information regarding the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding panels – info(at)

An informative well-researched article about the Grenfell Tower aluminium composite cladding in The Guardian:

“Cladding for Grenfell Tower was cheaper, more flammable option. Omnis Exteriors asked to supply cladding £2 cheaper a square metre than fire-resistant type, investigation finds.”

Omnis had been asked to supply Reynobond PE cladding, which is £2 cheaper per square metre than the alternative “fire resistant” Reynobond FR, to the companies that worked on refurbishing Grenfell Tower.

Grenfell Tower West London building design

Evidence seems to be mounting of problems in so many aspects related to this fire, from building mismanagement, cost-cutting, equipment failure to bad design. These multiple failures are unacceptable and viewed overall suggest a disrespect to the council tenants.

German construction companies have been banned from using plastic-filled cladding, such as Reynobond PE, on towers more than 22 metres high since the 1980s when regulations were brought in to improve fire safety at residential blocks.

US building codes also restrict the use of metal-composite panels without flame-retardant cores on buildings above 15 metres.

Grenfell Tower fire, approximately 6 a.m. on 14 June 2017:
Grenfell Tower fire |
photo by Natalie Oxford, courtesy of wikimedia commons

The Fire Protection Association (FPA), an industry body, has been pushing for years for the government to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities and companies to use only fire-retardant material.”

Clearly the UK needs to revise the Building Regulations and commence remedial work on all affected tower blocks.

It is imperative lessons are learnt as soon as possible.

The construction industry knows about problem cladding and should have done so much more to clean up its act.

Combustible core cladding usage should be heavily controlled after all of the lessons, notably from UAE.

Grenfell Tower fire, 4:43 a.m. on 14 June 2017:
Fire in West London building
photograph by Natalie Oxford, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Grenfell Tower used aluminium composite cladding with thermal insulation.

There is controversy and lobbying surrounding the use of combustible insulation systems.

Also, towers with a single stair should be demolished, there is always a chance the stair will get blocked or smoke-filled.

The refurbishment was overseen by Studio E Architects, and undertaken by Rydon Ltd. As part of the project, in 2015–2016, the concrete structure received new windows and new cladding.

What remains unclear is the system section and detailing: was there a gap behind the cladding, and if so why not fire stopped at every floor? Cavities are closed at each floor per building regulations but is there some weakness or loophole that allowed the ‘chimneys’ to form?

The work was carried out by Harley Facades of Crowborough, East Sussex, at a cost of £2.6 million.

This fire feels like it will become a sad, major milestone like Ronan Point was for an earlier generation. Ronan Point was a 22-storey Modern tower block in Newham, East London, which partly collapsed in May 1968, killing 4 people. It led to a “complete loss of public confidence in high-rise residential buildings, and major changes in UK building regulations resulted.”

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has released a statement which is worth noting:

“The tragic fire that occurred on Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again. The lessons of Camberwell, Shepherd’s Bush and Southampton have not been learned, and it is the responsibility of government to provide solutions.

The government must now as a matter of urgency lift the housing revenue account borrowing cap to free councils to undertake the urgent retrofitting work required on all existing housing stock found not to meet required safety standards.

Councils must also be given the power, as Labour’s housing manifesto pledges to do, to borrow to invest in council housing on the scale necessary to allow all those living in homes deemed to be unsafe to be properly rehoused.”

The Grenfell Tower refurbishment architects posted a statement on their news page:

“We are deeply shocked and distressed over news of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower.
Our thoughts are with those that have been affected by this tragic incident, together with all of their relatives and friends.
It would be inappropriate for us to comment or speculate on events on Wednesday morning. We will be available to assist the relevant authorities as and when we are required.
Our website was temporarily shut down yesterday as a result of the number of requests received.”
source: Grenfell Tower refurbishment architects – Studio E, London (website now offline)

BD magazine notes two Italian architects from the Veneto region are believed to have died in the Grenfell fire: Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi were both working for London architecture practices, they lived together on the 23rd floor.

Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.
source: Radical Housing Network London

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting for housing justice. Grenfell Action Group is a member group of RHN.

15 Jun 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire London Building News

Grenfell Tower Cladding

15 Jun – It emerged the cladding used in Grenfell Tower was behind a rapidly spreading blaze at a tower block in Melbourne in 2014, reports The Guardian. An eighth-floor fire raced up 13 floors to the roof of the 21-storey building in 11 minutes. The spread was “directly associated” with the external cladding, said the fire brigade.

The rapid spread of the Lacrosse building fire, which was sparked by a cigarette on an eighth-floor balcony and raced up 13 floors to the roof of the 21-storey building in 11 minutes, was blamed on flammable aluminium composite cladding that lined the exterior concrete walls. Surely it is time for the construction industry to clean up its act and ban combustible aluminium composite cladding panels.

14 Jun 2017

Major London Building Fire

Grenfell Tower Fire

Massive blaze engulfs 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington, west London.

More than 200 firefighters tackled a massive blaze at a block of flats in west London, with people trapped in their homes. Reports very sadly confirm 12 people have died, with many more injured.

Fire in West London

Forty fire engines rushed to Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate, north Kensington, shortly after 1.15am.

Location: Lancaster West Estate, Latimer Road, North Kensington:

Grenfell Tower West London location

Blazing since around 12.45am GMT, reported the BBC. e-architect posted at 5am GMT and our thoughts are with all affected; the page will be updated once any architectural issues come to light.

The construction industry will need to learn from this fire, and why it happened. The 2009 Lakanal House tower block fire occurred in 2009 in Camberwell, South London. Six people were killed in this twelve storey tower block.

A residents action group report warnings went unheeded by relevant authorities:
“we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”
Grenfell Action Group

A building fire expert advised that floor-to-floor fire spread occurring over full height suggests malpractice has occurred.

The London Mayor has declared it a major incident.

Grenfell Tower Fire in West London

Floors: 24
Date built: 1974
Residential units: 120
Architecture firm: Clifford Wearden and Associates
Lead architect: Nigel Whitbread

Grenfell Tower comprises 20 storeys of residential flats and four storeys of community/office spaces at podium level.

It is roughly square in plan and the residential floors are identical: 4no. 2-bed flats – one on each corner –and 2no. 1-bed flats – one facing east and the other west. The north and south elevations are almost identical, as are the east and west.

Main contractor Rydon appear to have submitted for a £8.7 million renewal over 66 weeks, focused on an internal reconfiguration of podium levels and external recladding. This work was carried out in 2015-16.

source: Grenfell Tower London –

Refurbishment was applied for in 2012 of existing Grenfell Tower including new external cladding and fenestration, alterations to plant room, reconfiguration of lower 4 levels to provide 7 new residential units, replacement nursery and boxing club facilities, external public realm works, redevelopment and change of use of existing garages to refuse collection area.

The building facade, photo references Harley Facades UK:
Grenfell Tower North Kensington London building
photo courtesy of SE9

Scope of work: ACM rainscreen over-clad, replacement windows, curtain walling, louvres, feature metalwork
Client: Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Architect: Studio E

“The upgrade work includes new windows, insulation and cladding, and a complete upgrade to the heating system. A new entrance and new flats will be created within the podium levels.”
source: Grenfell Tower facade cladding architects – Studio E (website now offline)

The UK has stringent Building Regulations so the extent of the blaze is surprising. Lessons will have to be learnt – a resident suggested the new external cladding might be partly to blame for extent of fire spread – but for now our thoughts are with the people involved.

Grenfell Tower West London building
image courtesy of architects via planning portal

source: Grenfell Tower West London – planning submission for the renewal works

London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Major incident declared at Grenfell Tower in Kensington” and urged people to follow London Fire Brigade on Twitter.

Location: Lancaster West estate, North Kensington, London, England, UK

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