State owned, repaired and managed building goes up in flames

And as for their measures on the ground, Grenfell Tower was the tragic measure of their failure.

That is the reason why we need more state control.

That’s why we need more state control.

27 comments on “State owned, repaired and managed building goes up in flames

  1. You missed that the state also failed to:

    – adequately assess the flammability of the materials
    -adequately understand the fire risks
    -adequately issue appropriate guidance to residents in the event of fire

  2. JS, I’d be interested to know who and how the appropriate risk assessments were made prior to project starting. Plus all the usual CDM stuff.

  3. It was not managed by the state but by a Tenants Management Organisation, an overall majority of whose directors were elected by the tenants of council-owned housing in Kensington and Chelsea. The “grass-roots democracy” advocated by the Left is the immediate cause of the failure, partly because it ignored the complaints of the tenants.

  4. JS,
    “I’d be interested to know who and how the appropriate risk assessments were made prior to project starting. Plus all the usual CDM stuff.”

    So would I- I don’t think it’s been made clear in public yet. From what I can see, K+C council were responsible for fabric/asset management, and the TMO responsible for the tenancy side.

    My experience on social housing refurbs is that a spec was drawn up by a clerk of works, with reference to a surveyor or two, and regulation would have been covered in the tender by a paragraph reading:
    “It is the responsibility of the prime contractor to ensure that all materials and works comply with the relevant standars”

    If it’s a larger project, they’ll probably have quoted a few of the main ones, and stated it’s a non-exhaustive list.

  5. Wasn’t the cladding by itself complying with EU fire standards, lower than UK ones by the way (not to mean that it is necessarily better, cost/benefits and all that), but the use of them in the way they were fitted meant that those standards were irrelevant?

  6. @monoi

    … that’s one of the common gaps in tendering- the contractor can demonstrate compliance in general terms, but the client isn’t smart enough to spot that they’ve not been specific in their spec.

    (But let’s not ignore the fact that there’s always going to be disasters that exceed the regs and make a mockery of the risk mitigation efforts by even fully qualified appropriate experts)

  7. My interpretation of this is that the cladding was applied partly for appearance and partly for insulation. Fire retardancy was not a key factor.

    Three types of cladding were available depending on how high from the ground it was to be applied so the supplier had through through the implications of fire and the limitations of fire engines to reach the higher levels.

    It appears that the low fire retardants were applied all over the tower. Whether this was due to cost, laziness, incompetence or because it had better insulating properties so was seen as meeting the primary objectives of the cladding is what needs to be determined.

  8. My (admittedly limited) understanding is that the Eu standard is 25+ years old and inadequate.

    The UK wanted to introduce an enhanced standard BS8414 but its an EU competence and thus weren’t able to.

    The council tender specifies compliance with fire standards which the crappy cladding did – i.e. the inadequate EU one, and probably didn’t give fire safety another thought. The main concern was heat insulation properties to satisfy the Green agenda.

    Which explains how this crappy cladding ended up on 800+ blocks.

    By the way the EU have been working on the revised fire safety standards for 20+ years. Go EU

    I think Richard North has a detailed post on this…

  9. “All pointless speculation before the reasons the fire spread (so fast) are established.”

    True, but we should probably get started constructing the gibbets to deal with those responsible, given the probable number of them that will be required operating 24/7 all over the UK. An entire Green movement (allegedly) being the most likely main culprits

  10. Can some explain to me how the Grenfell management structure (state owned, management run by half state, half tenant reps with a few experts as extras) is different to Corbynites wet dream?

  11. @MatthewL

    “Can some explain to me how the Grenfell management structure (state owned, management run by half state, half tenant reps with a few experts as extras) is different to Corbynites wet dream?”

    Where you getting the experts from, Matthew?

    The standard of surveyors at the average social housing place is best typified by this example:

    We discovered we’d spent about 200k remedying concrete floor slabs* in 1960’s properties. All signed off by a surveyor of similar vintage. He’d noticed the floor slabs were subsiding- not unusual at all- they’re several tonnes of concrete sat on substrate, after all, and the properties were 50 years old.

    The unusual aspect of the case was his method of dealing with it: dig up the slab and re lay it. At considerable expense and inconvenience to the tenant, their neighbours, and the planned maintenance schedule for the borough.

    A cheaper (and saner) way to deal with the problem? Sure: simply tip some concrete on top of the old slab and level it. This, by the way, is not niche thinking, or modern. It’s the normal regular way of correcting a dip of a couple of degrees over a five metre (say) span.

    The crime, though, is less that he fucked up- more that the management in place allowed this to go on for five years before it was even noticed, much less stopped.

    *Floor slabs (in domestic properties) are rarely structural- concrete is a quick and cheap way of spanning a floor, that’s all.

  12. I have a nagging feeling that I looked up the CEO of the TMO and he had a long career in social housing. And a music degree, much like the Chief Risk Officer at Equifax. Both of their LinkedIn profiles have been scrubbed.

  13. A fire happened. People died. Someone must be seen to be at blame for this tragedy.
    If its the guilty party this is a bonus but not required.

    Why this blaze? Why this cladding used so extensively caused this particular fire to be so bad? Were there no fires in the other blocks? Was any other fire simply unable to get to the cladding elsewhere?

  14. Talk to the hand!

    Graeme says:
    September 28 2017 at 11:54 am
    Talking about Grenfell Tower, the MP Emma Dent Coad was a local authority rep on the Board of Kensington and Chelsea TMO when the refurbishment plan was agreed. With your Labour Party connections, do you have any insight into whether central government put any pressure onto them re materials?

    Reply
    Richard Murphy says:
    September 28 2017 at 12:40 pm
    I have no Labour Party links

  15. BF,

    “An entire Green movement (allegedly) being the most likely main culprits”

    I think we can take it as read that the Green movement will get away scot-free and neo-liberals will be to blame.

    As Martin says, this is about punishing someone, preferably not the State’s friends or the elite.

  16. “All pointless speculation before the reasons the fire spread (so fast) are established.’
    @Wonky the sane

    All of those living in that block of flats were more than happy living at a heavily subsidised rate in an expensive part of London. They all were happy to accept £70,000 from hard working tax payers, per flat for the refurbishment. They thought that the public sector that built the block, maintained, refurbished, and attempted to fight the fire cared about them. No you get what you pay for!
    N.B. I am told that £70,000 is more money than the lower 50% of the population of the planet earn in their lifetime!

    A concrete eggbox structure should not burn, if you light a fire in one compartment it should take a long time to burn through the fire doors… concrete does not usually burn!

    But this is a State owned building, so we put…
    1. Burnable cladding without firebreaks on the outside.
    2. Burnable insulation without firebreaks on the outside.
    3. Knock holes through the fireproofing to fit gas pipes etc.
    4. Have a non working dry riser pipe.
    5. We don’t have any effective smoke / fire alarm.
    6. Allow explosive fridges full of Butane!
    7. Allow BBQs and other flammable stuff in flats.
    8. Have the Fire Brigade tell them to stay in their flats and burn to death, all the while promising they will be rescued.
    9. Have a Fire Brigade that fails to send hydraulic platforms to high rise fires.
    10. Have a London Fire Brigade that does not have long reach platforms (to reach the top of Grenfell) and has to borrow one from Surrey!

    We also allow idiots to live in the building that,
    1. Fail to close the windows and fire doors in event of fire.
    2. Vandalise the dry riser.
    3. Steal the fire doors.
    4. Fill their flat with flammable crap.
    5. Park their cars and block fire engine access.
    6. and elect as their MP one of those public ‘servants’ (sic) that were more than happy to allow each of the above points.

    But to save time we can blame the fire on evil Tories, and the rest of us can wait for the next one to catch fire…

  17. Not an expert of course, but a thought nevertheless.

    There were numerous inspections during the refurb. I think it would be most unlikely that the refurb failed any specific standards laid down, which would imply that the standards were in some way inappropriate, or inadequate or otherwise lacking..

    However, it can be difficult to lay down rules to account for all eventualties. Perhaps the perspective should be changed from prescriptive box-ticking to a more general duty of care.

    After all, there is no definition in law of “true and fair” in accounts. So any inspection or safety check would need to consider all factors including any oddities and wrinkles.

  18. @ Martin

    “A fire happened. People died. The Tories must be seen to be at blame for this tragedy.
    If they are the guilty party this is a bonus but not required.”

    FTFY

  19. Andrew C

    No fridge filled with inflammable liquid = no fire

    No idiots that leave fire doors and windows open = no fire spread.

    No insulation = slower fire spread (Thank you, watermelons!)

    No stupid London fire brigade telling people to stay put = fewer deaths.

    I could continue…

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