Grenfell

Dear friends

Did you know that the history of current building regulations begins as a result of the Great Fire of London in 1665, Pudding Lane, etc.?

This week has seen the awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London.  

I awoke to read the BBC news with a picture of the 24 storey residential tower looking like a burning candle and of residents not escaping.  It was horrific and clearly there was going to be significant loss of life.  I noticed in the article that the​block was recently re-clad.  I thought of the buildings where I’ve used rain screen cladding (all educational).

My thoughts very quickly turned to why the fire had spread this way as I thought of recent fire incidents in our area. 

Fires were contained within the flats​.  (Look carefully in the photo and you’ll see the boarded up window on the left side and very little external scarring, that fire was a couple months ago, no-one seriously injured).  And I know the policy is for other residents to stay within their own flats, they should be safe.  However, I am also aware that re-cladding works have recently begun on several tower blocks in town, procured some time ago, with little involvement from our team of property consultants.  

I haven’t read too many more articles since the day.  The words of the witnesses fills me with tears each time.  Last night my dear husband said l was upset, angry and flailing my arms in the night during my sleep.  I’m fairly certain it’s as a result of this weeks events.

There was no official comment from the new head of assets at work.  Finally yesterday, the head of our architectural team spoke vehemently on the incident with myself and a colleague expressing his concern that no-one in the authority is stating anything and acting as if it’s business as usual.  We discussed the technical issues and the principles of rain screen cladding and what fires need to thrive – fuel, oxygen, heat.  He had already downloaded photos and identified the type of cladding.  He noted that consultants involved had already taking down their websites.

We spoke of Ronan Point.  A tower block which collapsed in the 1960s following a relatively small gas explosion.  We all know that changed the building regulations, introducing regulations to guard against disproportionate collapse.  And this incident may lead to a similar change in regulations.  

The most vulnerable members of our community were living in those high rise dwellings, eideriy, migrants, young families, single persons.  As a designer of the built environment this incident is troubling.  And it has made me think on how often we are asked to compromise as designers, for time or money.  

Health and safety legislation in the UK (CDM 2015) now recognises the role of principal designer, and it seems that this is a responsibility which may soon come to me, as a named individual within the council.  This incident is troubling but I feel that we ought to stand up to pressures from non – designers in our project teams to do what is right, thinking of those people for whom​ we are designing.

For me personally, I am grateful for the Holy Ghost who will direct and guide all aspects of our lives, including design, if we trust Him. 

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