Cladding used on Grenfell Tower ‘may have made fire worse’

The cladding used on the Grenfell Tower flats may have made the fire worse, according to one former fire fighter.

Rainscreen cladding, which was added during the Kensington tower block’s refurbishment, can act as a ‘chimney’ for fires because of its ventilated cavities.

Many have speculated as to whether this could have made the fire worse, and led to it spreading quickly and trapping residents – something that former fire fighter Jack Monroe believes.

The blaze devastated the high rise in Kensington (PA)
The blaze devastated the high rise in Kensington (PA)
Cladding may have made the blaze worse, according to a former fire fighter (PA)
Cladding may have made the blaze worse, according to a former fire fighter (PA)

Reacting to the devastating blaze – that has so far killed six people – Jack tweeted: “Whoever signed off on that cladding needs to be hauled before a court and held fully accountable for every single fatality and injury.”

He added: “Who clad a high rise building in flammable material? And why? So many questions about this. An absolute tragedy.

“In the 80s the law changed to allow building contractors, not the fire service, to determine whether buildings were safe from fire.

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“Senior ex-firefighter friends this morning saying they held meetings with their MPs to warn them of the risks of this. 30 years ago.”

Cladding is generally used for insulation in buildings but can also be used simply for cosmetic purposes.

It was used in the structure of The Torch skyscraper in Dubai – the location of a huge fire in 2015, although managers of the 86-storey building were quick to point out that it adhered to all Dubai fire safety requirements when it was completed in May 2011.

Cladding was used on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower (ITV News)
Cladding was used on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower (ITV News)

Chartered surveyor and fire expert Arnold Tarling, from Hindwoods, said that the process can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation, causing s fire risk.

He said: “It produces a wind tunnel and also traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building.

“So had it been insulated per se, the insulation could fall off and fall away from the building, but this is all contained inside.”

Angus Law, of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, added: “Early media reports suggest that this event has similarities with other fires that have occurred recently around the world.

“The UK’s regulatory framework for tall residential buildings is intended to prevent the spread of fire between floors and between apartments.

“If spread of fire does occur, as has happened at Grenfell Tower, the consequences are often catastrophic.”

The building was used for homes and a boxing club (PA)
The building was used for homes and a boxing club (PA)

Rydon Construction, the company the recently refurbished Grenfell Tower, confirmed the use of cladding on the tower block on their website.

They stated: “Externally, rain screen cladding, curtain wall façade and replacement windows were fitted, improving thermal insulation and modernising the exterior of the building.”

The cladding company who worked on the refurbishment fell into administration shortly after finishing the project.

Contractor Harley Curtain Wall folded shortly after completing the £3 million segment of the £10 million project, but was bought by Harley Facades.

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The East Sussex-based company had been operating since 1997, but closed in September 2015.

A spokesperson for Harley Facades today said: “There’s not really anyone who can speak to you at the moment.

“Obviously we’re just devastated here at the moment, we don’t know anything about what happened and we’re trying to find out.”

Rydon Construction said they “met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.