Tag Archives: Grenfell Tower

Blame and culpability are not the same

The setting is one that has been going on for a while. We can hide, we can blame. Yet the culpability is one that is much larger and it is seemingly aimed at the wrong people. The one that did set me off most was not some Murdoch article, you would expect that. No, it was the Times with: ‘The Grenfell fire inquiry has revealed serious shortcomings in firefighters’ training, but none so serious as a reluctance to react to fast-changing events‘. If we look at certain elements, we can deduce that part and give that a thumb up rating. Yet, I do not believe that this is the case, I believe that certain players are setting the stage and the lighting on the people in this oversized drama, whilst the light is moved away from the actual events and the actual players behind the screen. You see a lot of issues were clear within 5 minutes (always the case after the facts), I spoke about them in my blog of June 2017 ‘Under cover questions‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/). The brochure alone gave me so many red flags that this was a much larger danger. So before there were firefighters. There were the people behind the renovation, there were the decision makers, there were the architects of the plan, there were the people who gave the final word. These people were to be fried, baked and were to be interrogated in a very uncomfortable way. When I wrote it, I also saw the Guardian article ‘Complex chain of companies that worked on Grenfell Tower raises oversight concerns‘ raising a few additional concerns. So when we look at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. We see (at https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/news/prime-minister-announces-inquiry-terms-reference) the following points.

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;

(b) the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;

(c) the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;

These are the first three points, and it seems to me that this should have been the order. Now, I can accept that they are working on the firefighters first, as the better it is in their memory, the better the quality of the statements. Yet, it is my personal believe that the Times misfired (one of the least likely events in the history of journalism) for the simple reason that nothing about this fire was normal. Anything that could have gone possibly wrong did and when we go back to one of the scariest parts in all this was talked about in my earlier blog too. The footage (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUtjSspO_BU) gives us the recordings on the fireman still on route trying to get TO the fire. They were in disbelief that this was real, so even we hear the talks on the fire fighters being banned talking to the media. Now we see the disgraceful words of the Times (which is an unique in my view as well). The revelations by John Sweeney (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrzcjUhf61w) give us even more (not at present, but at the initial point), it gives us that the first fire engine arrived in 4 minutes. The BBC gives a much better light and the one part that I stated in the beginning and still believe that is true, is that the Firefighters should have been made untouchable by the media until the inquiry is done. Even as we see the critical answers that BBC Newsnight received by Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union is an internal one and he is stating that certain things needed to be looked at. Certain protocols had to be changed. Yet here too the bigger story is not merely what was missed, or what was done. It is what should have been there from the earliest beginning and we see close to zero on that. Yet there were water pressure issues, it was not enough to fight fires, and it became worse when all the levels of concrete hindered communications. Yet the first light was given by Sky News on November 27th 2017 when we hear (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pS3cIF6g24), at 0:45 we hear “we had a push to insulate buildings and easiest, the cheapest way to insulate them is to use these combustible materials“, a clear danger, the Reynobond PE brochure calls even more questions on the failing, yet all eyes are on the fire fighters and I found the Times article the most upsetting one. So, we would not have been surprised to the Telegraph giving us: “The inquiry has previously heard from Dr Barbara Lane, a leading fire engineer, that the controversial stay put policy had “substantially failed” by 1.26am when flames could be seen to have reached the top of the 23-storey tower block“, I expected more and better from the Times. You see, the ‘Stay Put’ protocol makes perfect sense, if all the proper elements are in place and we learned later that not only were they not in place, we see the effect of a fire growing outside of a CONCRETE building that caused the dangers. A danger I correctly identified in less than 5 minutes, and that included the time required to Google search the Reynobond brochure, downloading, and reading it.

We are also given from several sources that repeated warnings were ignored. And that gets us to part 4 of the inquiry. There we see:

(d) Whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;

There is an important overlap between part c where we see “industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings” as well as part (d) where we see: “whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with“. Here we get to understand the setting of the stage for the fire, yet the stage is larger. The entire consideration by the decision makers on the refurbishment of Grenfell and what happens after are receiving governmental isolation from the event and there is where we see the setting of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). When we consider the message on September 27th 2017 where we are treated to: “Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the landlord of Grenfell Tower“, we still see that there is not one, but there are two elements missing in the dock and the people have a right to grill these two players as well. It is my personal view that there is a systemic failure here, but the reach of the failure is a little in the wind as we are unaware of all the legalised settings of responsibility, that is also an element that we should look at, because the deeper the failure goes, the larger the problem for London and its mayor Sadiq Khan.

So even as Sky News treats us to the LFB chief testimony with: “The London Fire Brigade chief told the inquiry she would change nothing about her team’s response on the night of the fire and defended the crews’ “fantastic” actions – to which survivors in the room shook their heads“, I wonder how many saw the YouTube video where the firemen saw the blaze already going on and these people still ran into the fire with whatever they could. That in view of “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and zinc panels were replaced with the aluminium composite material with the plastic core“, It is at this point when we need to realise that the Chair of Grenfell gives us what is actually important ion all this: “Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chair of the Grenfell Tower inquiry which opens in full on 4 June, has said he wants to find out “what decisions about the exterior of the building … were made, by whom and when”. He also wants to know whether the cladding and insulation met building regulations and standards, who was responsible if they did not and “what factors or motives influenced the decisions”“, this setting as given by the Guardian in May 2018 reflects what I stated a year earlier, it is what matters and whilst everyone is having a go at the London Fire Brigade, whilst the initial phone call on a stove with a fire did not include the part: “We are about to call you to a fire that has (intentionally or not) been designed to become a roman candle, burning hotter than a crematorium, designed to kill as many as possible and leave nothing in working order when the fire is done, you will optionally never ever have trained for such an event, as this has not happened since the 1974 when John Guillermin created the Towering Inferno“, which with the eye on irony was actually made by heaven forbid, a British film director, all elements ‘clearly’ seen and not currently reflected upon in the inquiry until much later (not the movie part).

Yet the movie part still matters, you see, when we take a little trip back into time, we see the events of February 1, 1974, the same year the movie was made. Here we are treated to the story of the Joelma Building disaster. Here too we see that there was no sprinkler and no smoke alarms. The 1974 Joelma Building fire was the worst skyscraper-related disaster in history until the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and when you realise that the fire brigade was left with no options and that the fire went out on its own because there was nothing left to burn, only then do you perhaps realise that this was a clear sign that the story was not about the firemen, it was about the 179 people who lost their lives. Add to this the setting of the Lakanal House fire of July 3rd 2009 in Camberwell London and when we realise that at a meeting of Southwark Council, Cllr Ian Wingfield called for a “full and independent public inquiry” into the fire, which was supported by the Fire Brigades Union and that no public inquiry was conducted into the Lakanal House fire. We end up being treated to three clear signs that Grenfell could have been avoided largely BEFORE the fire even started. We get that final part through: “the fire spread unexpectedly fast, both laterally and vertically, trapping people in their homes, with the exterior cladding panels burning through in just four and a half minutes“. All clear statements of facts, all evidence on what happened, not reflected on and with “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget“, we see what clearly might reflect on the criminal setting of Murder through optional intentional negligence. I wonder if the inquiry will ever touch on that, at present, with the Times giving us ‘shortcomings on fire fighters’ the survivors and for now living relatives of Grenfell, they are not given the whole setting and even as there is a governmental need to critically look at Grenfell tower, it should show a lot more because I am decently certain that the failure will remain after the inquiry. You see, I will call on another piece of evidence, it is the instructed actions by solicitor, Vimal Sama, dated 25th July 2013, where we see that Francis O’Connor was facing optional prosecution on: “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment.” (the Independent at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-blogger-threatened-legal-action-kensington-and-chelsea-council-health-safety-a7792346.html), in that part, when we see the actions of “Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened a resident of Grenfell Tower with legal action after he blogged about his concerns over fire safety“, so did the media ever give everyone in London that particular blog and those relevant stories? In addition that article also gives us: “It has also been reported that former housing minister Brandon Lewis “sat on” information and resisted making sprinklers a legal requirement because it would “discourage building”“. In light of that at what point will the chairman of the conservative party be asked a few questions on the wisdom of resisting making sprinklers a legal requirement? Was that after he left that the impact would have been noticed?

All these valid questions on the setting that matters in a few areas (perhaps not at present at this exact stage of the inquiry), yet it gives me the first and perhaps only moment when I feel that this might be the one and only time that I tell John Witherow, editor of the Times:

Bad Form! This was badly done!

 

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Physical vs Virtual (part1)

The Guardian has two elements today; they are not connected, not in any way. Yet they are both important and they do connect in other ways and that part is actually a lot more important than you think, let’s take a look at part 1.

Physicality

To upset the reader, I will start with ‘On 14th June 2017 there was a clambake in North Kensington!‘ 71 people lost their lives and an almost equal number of people were seriously injured. I have written about it in previous blogs in both June and September 2017. It was renovated and that job was completed in 2016. Now, I can give you all the names, but the names actually do not matter at present, the issue of renovation was however more important. An interesting and slightly more important part is ‘the then housing Minister Gavin Barwell, refused requests for meetings‘, we will look at him later. You see there is an even larger issue, not the obvious ones, the ones I gave in June 2017 showing that there was published evidence that the entire choice of purchase was already a hazard by the selling company. No, it gets worse ‘Cladding added to Grenfell Tower to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats’‘, this is what the Metro gave on June 14th 2017. Charles White had the scoop. We can also take the view “Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and housed low-income families in Latimer Road, North Kensington“, so the cladding was added to make their presence less sickening to those around them. Well, as Roman candles go, those rich neighbours really had one ready for the victims of Grenfell didn’t they? In all this, and all the fuck ups that were saw, witnessed and in equal measure saw the media partially avoid, did no one see the brochure where we saw “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high“, the mere setting in the brochure and these highly paid individuals never bothered to ask the question and get on paper the certification for a 24 storey building? So how about the extension of 21 floors? It would be on top of my mind, but then I am not a graduated civil engineer. I merely don’t trust anyone trying to sell me ‘a great deal‘, not without proper investigation. So when I read ‘Leaseholders of flats face £40,000 bills over Grenfell type cladding‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/19/leaseholders-of-flats-face-40000-bills-over-grenfell-type-cladding). I wonder who should pay for all this, the luxury flat neighbours (implied that they pushed for a ‘better view’, they certainly got that whilst the fire brigades required 60 hours to fully stop the fires and close to 48 hours to remove the charcoal cadavers that used to be tenants in that building. Is this description upsetting you and making you angry? Good! I want you to be angry, because there is a systemic failure in the London boroughs when it comes to housing and it is still there. So whilst we see that Gavin might be all about ‘How to Win a Marginal Seat: My Year Fighting For My Political Life‘ and less about meeting with people who have genuine concerns on the safety of their lives, a person who was Minister for London as well as Minister of State for Housing and Planning seemed to have been in the middle of it all AFTER the renovation. So, even as his reign was flawed by not acting, we equally need to put Brandon Lewis, now the Chairman of the Conservative Party, as well as Kris Hopkins, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Northern Ireland Office in the spotlight. Even as Gavin has the gavel of dumbness, he was not there when it started and that has to be acknowledged in equal measure. The entire cladding issue is a mess from a civil, an engineering a political and a legal aspect. It is rare for something like that to fail on pretty much every level. That and a few other matters give rise to a much larger investigation, because if I can get angry and demand investigations into the EU gravy train, my anger on this mess needs to be even greater. And there is a growing number of pieces of evidence. With the ‘2009 Lakanal House fire, in Camberwell, South London, six died and at least twenty injured‘, the Guardian reported (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/24/southwark-council-admits-safety-failings-tower-block-lakanal-house-blaze), in February 2017, LONG BEFORE THE GRENFELL FIRE, reported ‘Southwark council pleads guilty over worst ever tower block fire‘, that alone should have pushed Gavin Barwell into action, yet there we see ehhh… nothing. There was a big nothing done, even a blogger who got told “The council had threatened the Grenfell Action Group with legal action in 2013 in a bid to prevent the group criticising the council, saying that such criticism amounted to “defamation and harassment”.” Again it is the Metro who gives us “The letter, which was allegedly sent in 2013, was sent by a solicitor working for Kensington Town Hall“, so can we please see the name of that solicitor published as well as the people he was representing? You see, that letter was in response from someone and we should be told who that someone was. In addition, me, myself, I and a whole range of people, including family members of the charcoaled tenants will have some loud questions for that person. In this we end up with even more questions as ‘Robert Black, the Chief Executive of KCTMO, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation responsible for managing Grenfell Tower on behalf of the council‘, which the Independent gave us is according to the Coventry Telegraph. You see, when we consider the mess already in place, and we accept that Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is the appointed legal person to lead the public inquiry. How can anyone accept “The board wishes to ensure that KCTMO remains best positioned to fully co-operate and assist with the inquiry and so it has agreed with its chief executive, Robert Black, that Mr Black should step aside from his role as chief executive of KCTMO in order that he can concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry“, in this the quote “The welfare of the residents of KCTMO remains the primary concern of the board” reads like a joke, 4 years of inaction, 4 years to miss what I saw in 5 minutes and three more facts of endangering the people living in Grenfell, which I found within the 30 minutes after that. In all this there is every chance that Robert Black is all about making sure that some questions are not asked and that some pieces of evidence are ‘not to be shown to the prosecution‘, the last part is merely speculation on my side, yet I wonder if anyone will be able to prove me wrong in the end.

So as we now get back to the other building where: “Residents of 80 flats whose freeholds are managed by a company owned by David Cameron’s half brother-in-law are each facing bills of up to £40,000 because the building is clad with flammable panels similar to those used on Grenfell Tower, in London“, I am less concerned who is a family member of who. I am more interested in the entire timeline on how cladding was chosen and how it was approved. If there is one clear timeline in evidence than it is the one where it is more and more clear that those connected to Grenfell were utterly incompetent, or they just didn’t know what they were doing. So even as all these boroughs will carry the weight of the Grenfell victims, we need to see the clear timeline for each building separately and in that Dominic Raab, the now Minister of State for Housing and Planning, is handed the nightmare scenario of a lifetime. Yet in all this, if he can pull through and improve the mess we are facing now, he won’t just meet with happy tears of joy from those around him, he could show that when true justice is found and that the matters are strong set in both legislation and borough procedure, there is every chance that his ascension as a future Prime Minister is not out of the question. For one man to show the failure of years of predecessors (with Alok Sharma being optionally acquitted to some extent in all this) there will be shouts of joy. I intentionally set Alok Sharma in that light because even as the surviving tenants of Grenfell have been failed in several ways, we need to be honest and fair and assess what resources Alok Sharma had available. I actually do not have those details or access to that data. As such I refuse to paint him in the same colours that his predecessors deserve. And the mess is still not over, that is seen (at https://www.lgcplus.com/services/housing/kensington-and-chelsea-too-slow-to-rehouse-grenfell-survivors/7023801.article) where we get the following parts all together making the mess even more severe.

  • Mr Raab said: “[There are] 208 households that require housing – of which, 59 have accepted temporary accommodation and 60 are in permanent accommodation.” That is up 16 since 25 January.
  • Ms Dent Coad said: “In November, we were told there were 209 displaced households, but I was given the true figures from the council’s housing department which was 376. “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.”
  • “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.” Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid responded saying Ms Dent Coad’s statistics referred to the wider estate and not the Grenfell tower and walkway alone.

So we have Emma Dent Coad, the MP for Kensington, Dominic Raab, now Minister of State for Housing and Planning and Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid needing to explain in the Local Government Chronicle that on one matter Emma Dent Coad and Dominic Raab cannot communicate in the same version of English, it merely is an exercise in miscommunication, and there is an issue of mistrust from the tenants? I am not at all surprised, merely surprised that a gang with pitchforks and torches have not moved in to deal with black magic and witchcraft, for such levels of miscommunication pretty much warrants that, especially if Robert Black ends up being related to the other Black family, something JK Rowling mentioned in some way in the recent past (that was a funny, for those who cannot read between the lines).

It is an almost intolerable mess and it seems that other buildings, especially the overreacting and not properly investigating management firms are now crying fowl (in the end someone has to be the Turkey in all this) and lashing the bills on anyone’s desk (allegedly) where they could possible pass the buck (read: £40,000). All this in a setting of physicality of events, paper trails that are either so murky that a team of barristers cannot decipher it and half-baked agreements where it is unclear if the tenants were ever properly informed. Finally in this matter there is Sir Martin Moore-Bick. That side is important when we see (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40491449), you see, I disagree. There is absolutely no case for “Labour’s Emma Dent Coad said Sir Martin Moore-Bick was “a technocrat” who lacked “credibility” with victims“, this is about the law. And someone like Emma Dent Coad, who got elected with a 0.05% margin (20 votes) with merely a degree from the Royal College of Art with an MA in History of Design has no real setting to judge on law does she? At least I myself do have two law degrees, one of them a master degree (they are Australian though) as well as a graduate degree in Internet working, so I am at least also technologically savvy. In addition the BBC piece gives us nothing more than the focus on one overturned case. I think that ignoring the 20 years as a judge of the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal warrants his appointment. The entire labour arsenal is all shouting to ‘connect’ to people, yet to properly investigate all matters; it is a step of legislation and logic, not emotion. Is there a better person to head the inquiry? I do not know, but in equal measure there is no evidence that he is the wrong person. In all as it comes to law and optional lack thereof, there is absolutely no evidence that Emma Dent Coad is qualified to be an MP; she was merely elected as Member of Parliament for Kensington. Sir Martin Moore-Bick is overly qualified as a judge, it is the distinction that makes the setting, and her ‘miscommunication‘ quoted earlier should give additional doubt to her point of view in all this.

 

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Betrayed by government?

That is how you should feel in the UK. This is not some issue with the conservatives, I myself am a conservative. The issue is on both sides of the isle. That issue was shown to be very much the case yesterday in an article by Robert Booth titles ‘Tower cladding tests after Grenfell fire lack transparency, say experts‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/26/tower-block-cladding-tests-after-grenfell-fire-lack-transparency-say-experts). Yet, Robert is skating around a few issues, and he should be confronted about this. You see, I covered a few of them three days before that and it took less than an hour to get those facts, they are out in the open. I published them (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/), with the actual brochure. You see, the Arconic brochure, which I had in the article as well. Stated: ‘it is perfect for projects less than 40 feet high‘. So please give us the name of the project manager who allowed for this cladding to be chosen, please give us his/her name. So when I read “The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Monday that samples of aluminium panels from all 75 buildings that had been sent for fire retardancy testing had so far “failed”“, I am not that surprised as the Arconic brochure states on page three ‘a polyethylene or fire-retardant compound’, so which is it, because polyethylene is a combustible element, so there must have been two options here. And there is, you see whoever made the choice chose the Reynobond (PE), which is the combustible edition, that is what earlier news gave us. So in that case, who signed off on that idea?

The actual Arconic leaflet gives you this information BEFORE purchasing. So when Robert gives us “The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked councils to cut samples of at least 25cm x 25cm from the cladding of towers and send them to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at Watford for testing but has not said if the tests show whether they meet a British standard test” I wonder who are they kidding here. My question would be ‘Did the DCLG know that they were enabling their buildings to become Roman Candles with the option to kill anyone inside that building?‘ it is not really the same question, yet with Grenfell, we have the ‘evidence‘ to the better extent. The next part is even more hilarious, although not on the side of Robert Booth. The quote “Experts have warned that far more comprehensive tests on the entire cladding system are needed to establish if buildings are as at-risk as Grenfell was, including the insulation and design details such as fire stops. The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, told the House of Commons that “cladding is not the whole story”.” You see, here John Healey is as I personally see it the joke and it will be on him. There is indeed more than Cladding, yet the Celotex RS5000 seems to hold water as there are comprehensive fire tests, as one would expect and the brochure does not beat around the bush. They are giving the reader the test names, what and how it was tested. Unless specific combinations crop up (which is possible), the French firm who resides in Saint-Gobain did a decent job. Although in the last days there is an update that they are withdrawing their materials for any project on buildings that are taller than 18 metres. That is a fair step to take, yet with the possible impact this offers, certain parties could under common law now find themselves in a torts case for loss of economic value and losses, which could be a very large amount. This is what a lack of transparency gets you and Robert Booth does point that out. And yes, after my article, Celotex gives us “Celotex is shocked by the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this devastating human tragedy. We have been supplying building products for over forty years and as a business our focus has always been to supply safe insulation products to make better buildings.” I find that acceptable. Their brochure is to the point, gives us a lot of good and the architects should have had the info they needed as well as a handle what else to ask for or what else to test for. At present, unless there are inconsistencies or misquotes, the work of Celotex is all above board and all good (me speaking as a non civil-engineer). The second person now under scrutiny should be Barry Turner as we read: “Barry Turner, director of technical policy at Local Authority Building Control, which represents council building control officers also asked: “I would like to know just what tests these panels are failing.”“. You see, in opposition I would ask, what tests were performed, how was testing done and who signed off on that? Again Arconic gives us in their own brochure: “the ASTM E84 test” and it passed with a Class A. Yet, that test involves a horizontal test sample’, so how horizontal was the Grenfell tower when people were living in there? Perhaps a vertical test would have been needed. I am merely going for broke with the questions. Of course the press will soon focus on the ‘savings of £1.5 million‘ yet I wonder if there is a real story there. It could be, but I am not convinced. You see, the directive to choose away from the initial builder as to the why, and the shown facts beyond the mere cost saving that will impact it all. In addition, the fact that the cladding was done to appease the luxury flats around that building is another matter for discussion. You see, when a building was safe enough, adding a fire hazard means that those requestors can also be interviewed very visibly now. They wanted a better view, so how was that view on June 14th? Yet we see little of that in the article. At this point, Robert gives us a gem, one that is interesting. The quote “The London Borough of Hounslow, where the Clements Court tower failed the DCLG test, panels are being “swiftly” removed, but the council stressed: “The insulation material behind this outer cladding is a ‘Rockwool’ material which is a non-combustible product, unlike the case of the Grenfell Tower, where the insulation was a combustible type“. You see, when we look at the RS5000, we see “Due to its excellent thermal insulating efficiency at service temperatures ranging from -297°F to +300°F, polyiso foam has become the standard for low temperature insulation applications“, this is the information we get on ‘Polyisocyanurate Foam‘ which is what is used in RS5000. So who are the members of that council, can we get names please? With the encountered allegations that go nowhere, we do not seem to get any names, so shall we get all the members of the Borough of Hounslow in the dock and ask them some questions? The fact that the insulator seems to fail is that vertically burning polyethylene (Raynobond PE) tends to go beyond 300F really fast, and we can agree that under normal weather conditions, the temperature of 150 degrees would never be met, would it? The final quote to look at is “One architect responsible for some of the projects where cladding has been ruled to have failed, asked: “What are they testing to what standard? This could be a massively costly and disruptive error to thousands of residents.”“, what standard? Well the one that does not burn people to a crisp would be nice. And if it is a costly, does that not make the test still valid? Also the given term “’costly and disruptive error’ to thousands of residents” by that architect? Perhaps his comment was taken out of context to some degree, but it still leaves me with questions. The disruptive error we see now is that those people who died do not complain, the ones burned and still living will complain as will their family members. The fact that I as a non architect, with limited firefighting expertise (a remnant of my merchant navy and marine rescue days) was able to question the validity of choosing Raynobond PE the moment I had gone through their 7 page marketing brochure. There remains an option that there are questions regarding the Celotex RS5000, yet with the massive failure that the cladding was, the insulator has no real way of proving itself. All this was obtained from merely watching 30 seconds of news film and one product brochure. In that we see that over half a dozen councils need to reassess their values and choices as we now see that changes made in haste are done in Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Salford city and Camden. I reckon that a few more are to follow before the week is out. In all this I love the BBC radio 4 quote the best: “Cladding is being removed from three tower blocks in Plymouth, which were found to have the lowest possible fire safety rating“, how does one consider going for the LOWEST possible fire rating? It almost sounds like a Victorian advertisement: “Pay rent until the day you die, we offer both in our places of settlement!

Grenfell is showing clearly that the focus of the government failed, not just this one, both Labour and Conservatives are equally guilty here. Having seen the paper trail as a foundation of non-clarity for far too long, I wonder how this was not brought to light a lot earlier. The complaints from the people in Grenfell can be used as evidence in this case. This time it got a lot of people killed and as he Tottenham MP, David Lammy stated the term “corporate manslaughter“, it leaves me with two things that you all should consider carefully. The scope implies that it is not just corporate and there is every chance that MP’s and council members could share the dock here in court. The second one is that when the evidence shows that it was about cutting costs at any expense, we see that with the BBC4 radio part. Is it still manslaughter, or does it become murder? Is leaving people in death-traps, with such intend manslaughter, or should we call it the way it is “casualties for the sake of profit margins“. There is no common law part in law or in UK cases to make this an actuality, but perhaps it should. Perhaps it is time to make that change, if only to stop greed to some degree, because 149 victims in one building would sanctify such a change in law. The government that does not give that honest consideration in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords during at least two sittings each is betraying the trust you bestowed upon them. This is now becoming a job for the Law Lords and as the blogger Lawlordtobe I call upon them to make the UK a safer place to be.

 

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Under cover questions

Yes, it has been a week. When the fire was first reported I steered clear. It was a fire. What was weird was the ferociousness of the fire, I had questions from the moment I saw the fire, but I waited. I had no Intel, I had no facts and it was a fire after all. Fires happen. Yet, those who saw the limelight seeking photos from the Telegraph might have noticed a thing or two. You see, the fire was like a fire that Hollywood could not do. The Towering inferno was not that intense. The fact that the fire had a casualty list that is massive is also an odd part in all this. So I decided to wait, I would not be the one shouting arson on something that was not that. The consequence is a little too unsettling. Yet now, a week later I found myself collecting what I could. It started with the noise on cladding.

The first thing I found was a similar issue in Victoria, Australia. On April 30th 2015 we see: “Testing conducted by the CSIRO in mid-April on behalf of MFB found that the Alucobest cladding material installed by building company failed to comply with high-rise combustibility requirements“, in addition there is “The external cladding material on this building did not prevent the spread of the fire as required by the Building Code of Australia,” said MFB chief officer Peter Rau“. It was a fire that happened in 2014. So these events had been happening for years. This now gets us to Rydon Ltd in East Sussex. They got the job, because they were £2.5 million cheaper. Like in the Towering Inferno, that place went down in the story because of cutting corners. So my initial thought was that this might be the case here too. The question is ‘Was that the case?‘ You see, it is all good and fine in books, but the reality is how were the materials tested, how did the makers of the original cladding present their materials? One of the parts is ‘Celotex RS5000 PIR thermal insulation‘, when we look at those specification we see: “Fire propagation ‘BS 476: Part 6′, Pass” and “Surface spread of flame ‘BS 476: Part 7′, Class 1“. It comes with the footnote “The fire performance and classification report issued only relates to the components detailed above. Any changes to the components listed will need to be considered by the building designer”

The entire issue becomes more of a mess when we consider that ITV business editor Joel Hills stated that he had been told that the installation of sprinklers had not even been discussed (at http://www.itv.com/news/2017-06-15/grenfell-tower-original-proposed-contractor-was-dropped-to-reduce-cost-of-refurbishment-project/), the ITV article focusses on the ‘cost saving‘ which is correct, yet the one part they do not raise is whether the materials were up to scrap. In addition they do mention two parts that are essential. One is “In 2013 the government wrote to every local authority to encourage them to retrofit sprinkler systems in older tower blocks. It did so at the request of a coroner who leads an inquest into a fire in Camberwell in which six people died“, the second one was “Before passing judgement on whether the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management therefore acted irresponsibly, bear in mind that, according to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, only 100 older tower blocks in Britain have been retrofitted with sprinklers since 2013. Around 4,000 have not“, the councils were apparently put off by the costs, which in this was about £1150 per apartment. We read more about these tests as presented by Celotax (at http://www.ecosafene.com/EN/firetesting/building/228.html), so we get some clarity here. Yet the surface flame test (BS 476-7, linked in the referred page), gives us “Extinguish the pilot flame 1 min after the start of the test“, yet these numbers will not add up, because there were no sprinklers, no dousing the flame, so the entire operation will be working on different elements. This does not invalidate the test, yet if I look at the Ecosafene site I am now looking at ‘BS 476-15Fire Tests on Building Materials for Measuring the Rate of Heat Release‘ as well as ‘BS 476-5 Fire Test to Building Material for Ignitablity‘, you see, this caught fire somehow, after that Bob is your crispy dead uncle (in this case). Yet in all this, we did not mention Celotex. Their site gives us “As with the rest of the nation our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in London. On Wednesday, as soon as we were able to, we confirmed that our records showed a Celotex product (RS5000) was purchased for use in refurbishing the building. We wanted to provide an update to that statement and provide further information as we are able to. It is important to state that Celotex manufacture rigid board insulation only. We do not manufacture, supply or install cladding. Insulation is one component in a rain screen system, and is positioned in that system behind the cladding material“, It is what we now see in the Metro that kinda takes the biscuit. “Controversial cladding was added to Grenfell Tower in part to improve the view for nearby luxury flats“, which must have been a nice clambake to watch I reckon. It is the term ‘Controversial cladding‘ that now becomes the focus. You see, the Birmingham Mail and others are all about: “Grenfell Tower £8 million refurbishment ‘met all required standards’“, yet the fire does seem to tell a different story. The Guardian has another article linked to all this. The article ‘Complex chain of companies that worked on Grenfell Tower raises oversight concerns‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/long-builder-chain-for-grenfell-a-safety-and-accountability-issue) gives a few items a few answers and more questions. In opposition I need to give the quote “Ben Bradford, a fire safety expert who is managing director of the risk consultancy BB7, said the multiple links in the chain of contractors could cause safety problems. “There are probably multiple failings that have occurred in this particular case,” he said. “The work, in terms of fire stopping, often falls to a sub-contractor. They don’t always realise the critical nature of the components they’re installing in the overall system“, I have an issue here. It is not untrue what he is stating, yet the elements on the page give us a little clarity. You see Rydon used Harley Curtain. This setup is not unique. Rydon cannot afford the amount of people needed, hence a subcontractor is used. They would work according to the requirements of Rydon. That link is seen with the subsequent links to Celotex and Arconic. So Celotex is the insulator and we saw all those links, yet now the actual cladding remains. ‘Reynobond PE‘, in the end Rydon had to sign off on that, in clarity, at present Rydon is the responsible part (until valid defence is given). You see, when we go to Arconic, we see “Reynobond PE features a polyethylene core that adds strength and rigidity to the coil-coated aluminium panels. This maximizes its flexibility and formability, while maintaining a light weight for easy installation“, you see, when I went to High School (early 70’s) I was told that polyethylene was combustible, it is a common trait in the polymer group as they are all inflammable family members. You see, perhaps it is just me, but the brochure states: ‘building code recognition‘, is that the same as passing a test? The tests Canadian fire tests CAN S101, CAN S102 and CAN S134 are a nice mention, yet the idea that an AMERICAN company is relying on Canadian fire tests got me thinking. I have not found the answer; I am merely puzzled by it. The question is what did Rydon know on that part? They are supposed to be the expected experts, I am not!

The question still gives us a concern, you see the fact that the outside got to play the part of Roman candle is one side, at that point the sprinklers inside the building would have been pretty useless at that point. What is interesting is the mention on page 5 of the brochure: “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high” This is an interesting part because the ‘why‘ comes into play, why only 3 stories? That part becomes a point of discussion, as page three shows a 7 story high building in the images. On page 6 we see the safety rating form flames and smoke as a pass with Class A as per ASTM E84. That part revealed two elements. One is the mention ‘This test method measures flame growth on the underside of a horizontal test specimen, using the Steiner tunnel test‘, the operative word is ‘horizontal‘, the next one is shown (at https://www.astm.org/Standards/E84.htm), here we see “This test method exposes a nominal 24-ft (7.32-m) long by 20-in. (508-mm) wide specimen to a controlled air flow and flaming fire exposure adjusted to spread the flame along the entire length of the select grade red oak specimen in 51/2 min“, in addition they do not give ‘measurement of heat transmission‘, which seems a pretty important element in VERTICAL applied cladding, as flames tend to ignore gravity and move upwards adding to the temperature, for those extra crispy roasted victims. More important the ‘effect of aggravated flame spread behaviour of an assembly resulting from the proximity of combustible walls and ceilings‘ and as polyethylene is combustible, we now have an issue. From my point of view, if Rydon signed off on this there is an issue. Yet more important, the fact that there is documentation that goes back to 2014 in Australia and there are a number of buildings in London that have this issue, London Town there is a much larger issue in play. Now, we see that everyone is bashing Theresa May, and as she made me no Bundt cake I am fine with that. Yet this is a long term failure. It has an impact on several administrations on both sides of the political aisle. There is a clear call, one made by MP David Lammy in the Independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-fire-corporate-manslaughter-arrests-david-lammy-mp-labour-london-kensington-a7790911.html). I agree that ‘corporate manslaughter‘ is more than a fair call. As the Tottenham Labour MP states this, there is a call for the executives of Rydon to explain and show their elements in all this. They should be in defence mode and it could result in their arrest if clear evidence of negligence is found. The elements I found clearly support that and that is merely the 45 minutes getting through some of the brochures and going through the fire tests. You see, the earlier quote from the Birmingham Mail with ‘met all required standards’ does not hack it in my view. I found three issues in mere minutes, so we either have a systematic failure of government allowing this to continue (even more damning in light of the concerns from the occupants that had been going on for some time), the other side is that underlying communications might or might not exist. There is no way to tell until this is brought into the open. David Lammy might not ‘name’ anyone, but I did, and they should be named. Yet that also means that they can and should defend themselves as they might not be the guilty party, but no matter what, they are to a larger extent, the accountable party until properly investigated. And this is not because I am trying to have a go at Rydon, I want this to come out into the open. The failure that we saw burn is just one of several buildings where cladding has been applied to, and as the train wreck is pushed into the limelight carriage after carriage, only then will we see the complete extent of the failure and there is no ‘walk softly’ that option has been taken away by the dozens of fatalities. A little limelight is the least of the problems these people need to face.

Even as we saw the ‘cost saving‘ there is still going to be a backlash to KCTMO, you see, they made a call on the cheaper option, which might be fair, but why was the ‘other‘ solution cheaper? When those elements are brought to the surface there will be questions as they tend to come, fair or not. This all gets to get political soon thereafter as we saw the ‘reasoning’ of ‘improve the view for nearby luxury flats‘, you see, I am not buying a Versace suit so that I look more appealing to my neighbour. She (and he) can bloody well move to Knightsbridge and get a more expensive view there. Yet, that is just me.

rs5000_productdatasheet_aug16

Reynobond_Brochure

 

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