London Tower Block Fire

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  • #3
Borek
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Geoff Wilkinson, a fire and building inspector, told the BBC that the Grenfell Tower block "didn't perform in the way you'd expect a building to perform" once it caught fire as "you'd expect it to be contained to an individual apartment".

"Something has gone dramatically wrong here," he said.
Exactly my thoughts.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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I don't get it. From what I have heard, there were no active sprinklers or alarms, though I'm not sure if that means they didn't exist or weren't working. I'm not sure the age of the building, but anything less than 20 years old should be sprinklered.

This shouldn't happen in a developed country.
 
  • #5
Bandersnatch
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I don't get it. From what I have heard, there were no active sprinklers or alarms, though I'm not sure if that means they didn't exist or weren't working. I'm not sure the age of the building, but anything less than 20 years old should be sprinklered.

This shouldn't happen in a developed country.
Early edits on Wikipedia can sometimes be unreliable, but there's a lot of talk there about long-standing issues with fire safety violations by the building administration.
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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It always seems we are ill prepared for high rise fires.

The fire truck ladders can only reach so high and the internal sprinklers can only reach certain areas.

Much of our standards depend on people saving themselves through evacuation:

http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/property-type-and-vehicles/high-rise-buildings
My understanding of the code is that all high-rise buildings in the USA are required to have sprinklers, by retrofit if necessary if they are older than about 30 years due to some high profile fatal fires in the 1980s.
http://www.floridafiresprinkler.com/files/4714/7122/2210/Hi_Rise_Retrofit_-_FAQ_Final.pdf

The One Meridian fire in Philly in 1991 showed the spectacular ability of a small number of heads to stop a fire:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Meridian_Plaza

The building had been built in 1972 and was partially retrofitted by the time of the fire.
 
  • #7
Vanadium 50
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There is speculation that the building's cladding ignited and contributed to the fire's spread.
 
  • #8
berkeman
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There is speculation that the building's cladding ignited and contributed to the fire's spread.
Yeah, I haven't found any mention of sprinklers yet (strangely), but there is this about the cladding from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/13/europe/west-london-fire/index.html
But this fire seemed to tear up the building from the outside, gutting the outer apartments and blackening most of the facade.
 
  • #9
Astronuc
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The Atlantic magazine did a story on the Grenfell Tower and conditions that contributed to the fire.

The Grenfell Tower Fire and London's Public-Housing Crisis, Toby Melville / Reuters

https://www.theatlantic.com/interna...6/london-fire-grenfell-public-housing/530298/

The landlord is the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO), a for-profit company in charge of refurbishment and maintenance of the building. The building is owned by the local borough of Kensington and Chelsea—London’s wealthiest borough. In a trend now typical across London, the borough contracted KCTMO to refurbish the tower, in part to increase the number of apartments available for private rent or sale. That work left the tower with just one staircase and exit—an exit that the management company has failed to keep clear. Protests about the safety of the people living in the tower fell on deaf ears.
One resident has apparently claimed his refrigerator exploded leading to the fire.
https://www.yahoo.com/news/devastat...s-fire-caused-fridge-exploding-145403064.html
Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and contains 120 flats thought to be home to between 400 and 600 people.

The building was refurbished recently at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

Rydon, the firm that carried it out, said its work “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards”.
Well clearly, the required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards are inadequate, or the work was somehow deficient.
 
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  • #10
Evo
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I don't get it. From what I have heard, there were no active sprinklers or alarms, though I'm not sure if that means they didn't exist or weren't working. I'm not sure the age of the building, but anything less than 20 years old should be sprinklered.

This shouldn't happen in a developed country.
From the reports I read they weren't installed because of cost! Those people need to be tried for manslaughter!

Speaking to LBC Radio, UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has said "searching questions" need to be asked about the fire at Grenfell Tower and suggested that recent spending cuts might have contributed to the severity of the incident, according to Press Association.

"If you deny local authorities the funding they need, then there is a price that's paid," he said.

He also told the radio station that calls for sprinklers to be installed in high-rise buildings after a fatal fire at a tower block in south London in 2009 had not been heeded.

Corbyn added: "At this stage, let's save life, let's bring safety to people at Grenfell Tower.

"I think tomorrow is a day for searching questions," he said. And these questions "may well be difficult" for the Government.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/93685630/live-london-highrise-grenfall-tower-on-fire
 
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  • #11
mheslep
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My understanding of the code is that all high-rise buildings in the USA are required to have sprinklers, ....
Its not so much height as fire area sq ft now. Most any commercial building over 1000 sq ft, especially retail businesses, have a sprinkler requirement in my area, regardless of height. Any building over 5K sq ft regardless of use with an occupant load over 100 requires sprinklers.
 
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  • #12
f95toli
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From the reports I read they weren't installed because of cost! Those people need to be tried for manslaughter!
There are no regulations in the UK that say that you need to have a sprinkler system installed so I don't see how there could be a legal case; the regulations that require a sprinkler system in tall building were only introduced in 2007 and were not retroactive, meaning many (I suspect most) tall buildings older than that won't have a sprinkler system installed.
There are LOTS of old buildings in the UK and retrofitting sprinkler systems is often extremely difficult our even impossible (as opposed to just costly) so it is not surprising that the law was not retroactive.

There is an ongoing criminal investigation but so far no one has -as far as I am aware- been able to pinpoint an actual violation of building regulations.
 
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  • #13
Evo
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There are no regulations in the UK that say that you need to have a sprinkler system installed so I don't see how there could be a legal case; the regulations that require a sprinkler system in tall building were only introduced in 2007 and were not retroactive, meaning many (I suspect most) tall buildings older than that won't have a sprinkler system installed.
There are LOTS of old buildings in the UK and retrofitting sprinkler systems is often extremely difficult our even impossible (as opposed to just costly) so it is not surprising that the law was not retroactive.

There is an ongoing criminal investigation but so far no one has -as far as I am aware- been able to pinpoint an actual violation of building regulations.
That's terrible. Thank you for the information. People shouldn't be allowed to live in those death traps, IMO.
 
  • #14
russ_watters
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One resident has apparently claimed his refrigerator exploded leading to the fire.
https://www.yahoo.com/news/devastat...s-fire-caused-fridge-exploding-145403064.html
It has been confirmed:
http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/23/news/whirlpool-london-fire-grenfell-tower/index.html

A potential contributing factor here is that due to anti-global warming and ozone depletion regulations, refrigerants are being/have been switched from compounds that aren't flammable to compounds that are highly flammable (such as propane).
http://www.ukfiretraining.com/news/fridge-freezer-fires.html
 
  • #16
DrGreg
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  • #17
phinds
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"Cladding on 34 tower blocks in 17 council areas in England has failed fire safety tests, the government says."
That is VERY misleadingly stated. Suppose it was 34 failed out of 7,000 tested? You see how your statement doesn't do justice to the facts? In actuality it was 34 failed out of 34 tested.
 
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  • #18
jim hardy
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everybody has jumped on the paneling

seems to me we should question the foam behind it

from the NYT article(crude annotations mine)
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/24/world/europe/grenfell-tower-london-fire.html
Panel_LondonFire.jpg


If you build a chamber with one side heatproof, ie ceramic like a concrete wall
and the other side a heat reflector like the aluminum panel
then stuff it with fuel like that insulating foam against the concrete wall
and provide for forced draft of air, in this case convection over a lot of vertical height

you have built yourself a blast furnace or maybe a gigantic blowtorch.

If that foam adjacent the concrete wall is flammable,
i suspect those panels would have melted even if they were solid steel.
That they fell, probably aflame from their polyurethane sandwich, does not surprise me. Probably their support brackets failed from the heat.
But i bet it was spectacular . Are there reports of a tornado like roar?


If anybody hears what was that foam , post a link to it?
Here's one to the panels. They meet ASTM E84.

https://www.arconic.com/aap/north_america/catalog/pdf/brochures/Reynobond_Brochure.pdf

How about the foam behind them ? Looks to me like that was the culprit.

It's a personal theory , just putting it out for consideration. We must await details.
If mentors want to delete as 'personal theory against guidelines' there's no hard feelings.

old jim
 
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  • #20
jim hardy
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https://www.celotex.co.uk/products/rs5000
Suitable for use in warm steel frame constructions for ventilated facade applications, Celotex RS5000 can be used in buildings above 18 metres in height – a first for PIR insulation.

With low emissivity textured aluminium foil facings, Celotex RS5000 comprises rigid polyisocyanurate foam core (PIR) using a blowing agent that has low global warming potential (GWP) and zero ozone depletion potential (ODP).
What's Polyisocyuranate?
http://www.polyiso.org/?page=FirePerformance
upload_2017-6-26_10-56-14.png
Looks like both components, insulation and panels, meet the ASTM E84 standard tests. Polysilo says it's 'resistant' up to 390F.

This is how codes and standards evolve as industry learns from its mistakes.
This one will teach standards organizations to test for "Chimney Effect" .

Thanks Nidum !

old jim
 

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  • #21
OmCheeto
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How about the foam behind them ? Looks to me like that was the culprit.

It's a personal theory , just putting it out for consideration. We must await details.
If mentors want to delete as 'personal theory against guidelines' there's no hard feelings.

old jim
Whoever wrote the wiki entry on "fire risks" of "polyisocyanurate." seems to concur with your personal theory.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyisocyanurate#Fire_risk
On 14 June 2017 the block of flats, within 15 minutes, was enveloped in flames from the fourth floor to the top 24th floor. The causes of the rapid spread of fire up the outside of the building have yet to be established. It should be noted that flames can occupy the cavity between the insulation material and the cladding, and be drawn upwards by convection, elongating to create secondary fires, and do so "regardless of the materials used to line the cavities".

As do I.

The wiki article references the following as a source for the bolded section:

Probyn Miers (January 2016). "Fire Risks From External Cladding Panels – A Perspective From The UK". section 3.3.2.​

Probyn Miers seems to be a legitimate firm.
 
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  • #22
jim hardy
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this is only a newspaper account

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/201...ting-tower-blocks-deadly-insulation-grenfell/

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that while both the cladding and the insulation on Grenfell failed safety tests, it was "the insulation that burnt so quickly". This is not being tested by the Government.

Matthew Needham-Laing, an architect who is head of construction at Katten Law UK, said: "I think that they have got to look at the whole construction of the cladding zone.

"If the insulation catches light the rain screen could be completely incombustible but you still would have the same problem with the fire catching the outside of the building."

He said that "almost 100 per cent" of the 600 tower blocks with cladding panels will have been fitted with some form of insulation.

There are two types of insulation, the most common is PIR blocks which are fire resistant but still combustible, like the Celotex blocks used on Grenfell Tower.

The second type of insulation is a mineral wool, which is non-combustible but less common in the industry as it is difficult to install, experts say. Camden, Hounslow and a number of other blocks found to have cladding issues confirmed they had mineral wool insulation.
Why did they add insulation to the outside of the buildings? Some building efficiency mandate?
 
  • #23
Borek
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Why did they add insulation to the outside of the buildings? Some building efficiency mandate?
That would be my guess, standards are getting more demanding and the only way for the old buildings to meet them is to add additional layer of insulation.
 
  • #24
f95toli
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this is only a newspaper account

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/201...ting-tower-blocks-deadly-insulation-grenfell/
Why did they add insulation to the outside of the buildings? Some building efficiency mandate?
Many of these old buildings (note -however- that they are not ACTUALLY old, at least not compared to the Georgian and Victorian houses around them) have little or no insulation. This was not so much of an issue when they were built since energy prices (north sea gas and oil) were lower, CO2 emissions were not an issue and people just accepted that houses were cold, damp and draughty (houses in England -irrespective of age- are generally badly built in terms of the inside environment compared to the rest of Europe).
Due to the way the houses are built insulating on the outside can be a good option; it is not necessarily cheaper but it does not use up space inside the flats (which are already quite small).

(I used to live in a council owned flat not far from where the fire was, in a house of a similar age)
 
  • #25
256bits
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it is not necessarily cheaper but it does not use up space inside the flats (which are already quite small).
Apparently there are more expensive units across the way.
Would there be any information available as to the age of these units ( buildings ), how they are insulated, if extra cladding was added on after the building was put up, and if so, what type.
Not necessarily as a comparison between rich/poor, but even at other areas of comparable financial strength, perhaps looking at the range of value the different landlords/agency placed upon their holdings, and what could be achievable based on cost of upgrades, and return on expenditure.
It just seems odd that the whole building, and I would imagine several others were, was clad from bottom to top with the product in question, even though the manufacturer/supplier recommends only as far up as a fireman's ladder would reach.
Probably the information would not be easily accessible - there may be no comprehensive data at all yet.
 

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