Were crucial fire barriers missed out when Grenfell Tower was refurbished?

Rob Waugh

Planning documents for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower make no mention of a type of fire barrier which building safety experts say should have been used, Reuters reported.

It’s not clear whether this means that the barriers were not installed – and the construction company and local authority have refused to comment.

A 2012 planning document published by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which included detailed diagrams of the planned new panelling and the materials used in the new skin, did not include reference to the barriers, according to a Reuters review.

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It is not clear if the document represented the final design – or whether fire barriers recommended by industry bodies were installed.

Rydon Group, the construction company which undertook the work, also declined to say whether they had been used, but said the revamp ‘met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.’

“We are shocked to hear of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and our immediate thoughts are with those that have been affected by the incident,” a Rydon spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The government department in charge of regulating building work – the Department for Communities and Local Government – did not respond to Reuters’ questions, including whether such fire barriers were required by law.

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

A Grenfell Tower resident believes his fridge was the cause of the fire (PA)

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.

Reacting to the devastating blaze 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.”

Cladding on the building may have exacerbated the fire, according to experts (ITV News)

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.

Flames devastated the tower block in west London (PA)

“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.

Cladding may have made the blaze worse, according to a former fire fighter (PA)

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.

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