Tag Archives: Robert Booth

Flames of the blame game

The Guardian gave us a story on Wednesday and it was a story. Now, we can argue that there are more than a few markers in place, So when we see “The British system for fire testing building materials is utterly inadequate and underestimates the ferocity and spread of real blazes, a study commissioned after the Grenfell Tower disaster has claimed“, that might be good and proper (still debatable), yet the part that seems to be skated over, the icing of denial so to say is the facts that I had were a given in June 2017. They were in the Reynobond PE brochure. It has two important messages. The first being ‘This test method measures flame growth on the underside of a horizontal test specimen, using the Steiner tunnel test‘, that is interesting as we know that cladding tends to go vertical, so why not do a vertical test? The second was “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high“, these two alone should have stopped the dangers in its track. A request for a vertical flame test for the Grenfell building, as well as the need for a written confirmation that Reynobond PE was in fact the acceptable option for this building. Merely the application of common sense in the entire matter and the article by Robert Booth should have reflected that. So when I get to read “But they fail to reflect how materials burn in the real world, according to a highly critical report published on Wednesday by the Association of British Insurers (ABI)“, I start wondering who the stooge is that is taking the heat for the massive blunders that got 71 people charcoaled. I saw that within 5 minutes whilst reading up on the basic facts on the matter that basic issues had been negated, or merely ignored. So it is not what the ABI is suddenly preaching on how systems were outdated, it was the mere application of common sense and the lack of it within the council (or is that the KCTMO) to sign off on these matters got 71 people murdered, because when we consider the absence of common sense, they are not people, or victims that were killed, they ended up being the collateral damage of a mass murder, that is how we should see it, and that is how I personally regard that to be. When we consider “a building is significantly more flammable than the British Standards Institution test BS8414 shows“. When we consider the Evening Standard in August 2017, where we see “Alison Saunders said that although investigations were at a “very early stage” gross negligence manslaughter was among the offences that prosecutors will consider if police find enough evidence“. The mere documents I found (product brochures), seem to hold that part of the evidence, unless proper fire testing was done and Raynobond had given a written guarantee that Raynobond PE would suffice for the additional 21 storeys, there is a first setting of evidence that ‘gross negligence manslaughterwould already be an option that seems to fit (for now). Yet the Guardian also had important goods on June 16th 2017. With company director, John Cowley stating “Omnis had been asked to supply Reynobond PE cladding, which is £2 cheaper per square metre than the alternative Reynobond FR, which stands for “fire resistant” to the companies that worked on refurbishing Grenfell Tower“, so as we move from Omnis Exteriors to Harley Facades, where was the council in all this? So when we see “the Fire Protection Association (FPA), an industry body, has been pushing for years for the government to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities and companies to use only fire-retardant material. Jim Glocking, technical director of the FPA, said it had “lobbied long and hard” for building regulations on the issue to be tightened, but nothing had happened“, we see that the law had been inadequate for a long time, yet in addition to this This against the latest article where we see “The BS8414 test is overseen by the BSI, a private company appointed by the government as the national standards body. The panel that drew up the rules for the test include representatives from the plastic foam insulation industry. The BRE, which carries out the tests, is the former government building research station that was privatised in 1997“.

You see, these two statements are the actual ballgame now. When we consider that: “as the UK’s National Standards Body, the BSI is also responsible for the UK publication, of international as well as European standards. BSI is obliged to adopt and publish all European Standards as identical British Standards (prefixed BS EN) and to withdraw pre-existing British Standards that are in conflict“, so when we accept that and also accept that “Frankfurt’s fire chief, Reinhard Ries, said he was appalled at the fire at Grenfell Tower and said tighter fire-safety rules for tower blocks in Germany meant that a similar incident could not happen there. US building codes also restrict the use of metal-composite panels without flame-retardant cores on buildings above 15 metres” a statement that the Guardian gave in June 2017, we see that there is a massive amount of systemic failures. With ‘withdraw pre-existing British Standards that are in conflict‘, there is an implication that whilst the BSI was ‘privatised’ it never ended up doing its job (a speculative assumption that seemingly holds water after reading several accounts). The massive requirement for much higher fire protection levels imply just that and in all this, people hid behind a veil of insecure assurances and in all this ignorance is not a defence, not by my standards and not in court.

So when we take a look at that fire test that the BSI has (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4KA8S4yLoI), I personally get the feeling that Raynobond PE was never properly tested in this way (or any way for that matter), not before the fire at least, so when we look at the mess of interactions, I wonder what it will take and that too was covered by the Guardian when we see the quote “Cressida Dick, said on Wednesday that detectives were a long way from passing files to the Crown Prosecution Service and that she had asked for extra government funding over several years to help cover the costs of the inquiry“, I think that it goes further than this, the entire sales trajectory, the entire consultancy path from deciding on the parts to be ordered and the implementation of it all shows to be a clear factor and all the documents give rise to a much larger problem. When we see the mere interaction that the BSI is claiming to have and what we get as response from Germany (a EU nation) implies that the foundation of fire protection is just not there. The statement by the Fire Protection Association (FPA) bears this out.

The final part is the impact of choice. ITV gave us “The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation – which managed and maintained the council’s housing stock – decided to put the contract back out to tender and Rydon ended up agreeing to take it on for £8.7 million“, which puts the KCTMO in the hot seat, almost literally. You see the cost cutting had influence on several fronts and there is no way that it was all personnel. They also gave us “On Thursday night Rydon repeated its assertion that all the refurbishment work carried out at Grenfell Tower met both building and fire regulation standards and was signed off by the council. Grenfell Tower was built in 1974. The refurbishment project was, in theory, an opportunity to retrofit the building with a sprinkler system but it wasn’t taken. I’m told the idea wasn’t even discussed“, so which ‘fire regulation standards‘ were signed off on and who signed off on it? As we see that there is a huge discrepancy on the fire regulations at all, we can make the assumption that the council, or their representatives will now need to rely on large levels of ‘miscommunication‘, to avoid having to stand in the dock. More important, there is a desperate need to get these documents collected and soon, before they accidently go missing through the use of ‘Miss Filing‘ and her alleged ability to conveniently place documents, that poor lady does get blamed too often for too many things, ain’t that the truth!

In this I will end with the setting that Huw Evans, the director general of the ABI opened. He gives us the quote: “This latest research is yet more evidence that fundamental reform is needed to keep our homes and commercial premises safe from fire. It is a matter of urgency that we create the right testing regime that properly replicates real world conditions and keeps pace with building innovation and modern design“, yet as the director general of the Association of British Insurers he should have been aware, clearly aware that is that the task of the BSI, The British Standards Institution is to ‘withdraw pre-existing British Standards that are in conflict‘, and with the quotes seen, as well as presented settings regarding the prohibition panelling which we got from Frankfurt’s fire chief, Reinhard Ries regarding ‘tighter fire-safety rules for tower blocks in Germany meant that a similar incident could not happen there‘, we need to wonder how cladding is set (if it is set) in Europe as per the European Committee for Standardization. Yet none of these spokespeople seems to make reference to that did they? That is the setting we see and we see it from several sources, which now gives the question in all this, what is Huw Evans actually targeting, because it is not merely the overhaul of BS8414. The mere lack of mention in the cladding process because when we see the mention of the Hackitt review (independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/668831/Independent_Review_of_Building_Regulations_and_Fire_Safety_web_accessible.pdf), that part is not merely showing parts of the entire matter to be a joke, the findings on page 67 of that report “Contributors believe products are marketed with specification data presented in ways which can easily be misinterpreted. Indeed, individual elements are often used as part of compound systems that are not fully tested as systems“, the findings I had from one brochure (Raynobond PE) shows that the cladding should never have been used in the first place. In addition on that same page we see “The standards of workmanship for the installation of some safety-critical products (e.g. cladding) is not made explicit in the Approved Documents“, which is odd to state the least, I get that it is in the report, yet the fact that the KCTMO might not have set minimal levels, whilst approving a party for £2.5 million less should have been foremost on their minds. In addition, the application of: ‘the Approved Documentsmight be valid, but it leaves me with a whole range of additional questions. Here is that report: Attached

And we need to consider on page 6 “I am aware that some building owners and landlords are waiting for direction from this review on what materials should be used to replace cladding that has been identified as inadequate“, shows that whilst the Europeans have settings for standards on fire prevention, the BSI has not set the target that high, even as we saw ‘withdraw pre-existing British Standards that are in conflict‘, giving us more questions regarding the BSI, as such it seems that the tenants are in a much more dire situation, because there is every chance that Huw Evans, the director general of the Association of British Insurers is all about the insurance part and what he sees so far could spell that the overall insurance of apartments in high rises are prone to larger insurance premium increases than one would usually expect and there is a precedent for Huw to do just that, even if we do not grant insurances any consideration in the most optimum of times, they do have the right to up the premium if the risk warrants it, so in that regard, well over 350 buildings are loaded with tenants that will see their premiums spike as per next year’s insurance bill, that is, if the ABI is willing to wait that long, because that is at present not a given. Not when you tailored yourself for the Financial Times interview on April 25th.

Even I had not predicted the Grenfell situation to be a mess so complete that one might actually wonder how anyone has any value regarding safety or quality, it seems that there are many tainted sides to all this and that just like the blogger who in 2013 got the Metro to give us (at http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/14/council-threatened-blogger-with-legal-action-over-grenfell-tower-warnings-6708453/) “A local blogger who highlighted the danger in Grenfell Tower was sent a legal letter by lawyers working for the local council – accusing him of defamation and harassment” as well as “The letter, which was allegedly sent in 2013, was sent by a solicitor working for Kensington Town Hall. The local group behind the blog alleged that there had been serious failings on fire safety“, this was published Wednesday 14th Jun 2017, whilst the letter was from 2013, if the Grenfell Action Group can produce that letter for the media, we have the partial evidence of a much larger issue, the issue that certain dangers were optionally, optionally because the refurbishments were not completed until 2016, an actual danger. If any of the elements of the blog are shown to be there at the night of the fire, we see more than a systemic failure, we see clear Kensington Council acts that were in place to minimise exposure of dangers. And in that I will state that it only holds grounds if the letter and the 2013 blog show elements that were a true fact after the fire. The mere fact that the council struck out to a blogger is an actual concern as well. This is not about freedom of speech, it is the fact on what was written, but I need both to ascertain whether the Metro had anything viable at that time.

With so many fingers in several pies and so many ‘considerations’ of the pastries that is set on a large table named Grenfell, there is the danger that any interaction and any connected evidence will delay official acts, investigations and proceedings more and more is now a serious consideration whether in the end prosecution of any party remains viable. It would upset so many players but the question is realistic enough and that is not a good thing, not in this time and place.

 

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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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Costing in the key of life

Over the last decade, political parties have squandered the needs of their constituents. Liberals, conservatives and Labour alike in both the UK and Australia. I have seen the pressure as housing is no longer an options for many. It is a skewed approach to a solution that fit only the truly wealthy. It is a system that has been ignored, shovelled all over the place and no one has done anything serious to address it. How much longer can this go on?

Yesterday’s article in the Guardian by Robert Booth is only the tip of the iceberg that sank the good ship lollipop (at http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jan/01/london-flats-costing-up-to-1m-outsell-more-affordable-homes). The title ‘London flats costing up to £1m outsell more affordable homes‘ is on one side deceptive on the other side it is illustrative of several administrations that have not considered any solution, just a propagation of the Status Quo. The quote ‘sold more than twice as many two-bedroom apartments costing between £650,000 and £1m as cheaper homes priced at about £300,000‘ is partially deceptive. You see when you see the data ‘Sales of London homes banded by asking price per square foot’, we see the numbers, but what is missing is not ‘what is sold‘ but the metric ‘available places that people can afford‘, Even higher educated barristers admitted to the bar will not be able to show an annual income of £200,000, which means that even the highest educated are not in line for anything decent any day soon. In Australia the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is now marketing the alternative in the trend of ‘Use your spare room to help pay off your mortgage!‘, they voice it like ‘my new business‘, but in the end, it is a risky approach to either a mortgage that is higher than you bargained for or one that was outside your reach an they are voicing the ‘entrepreneurial’ edge to hide the risk. What if that person suddenly gets into a financial wash? What if the Granny involved dies? All elements that take weeks if not months to resolve and the mortgage is still due. In addition permits might be needed. Nothing of that is clearly shown. The entire housing market is in a dangerous place because the political parties have ‘conveniently’ ignored the lower branches of income and in all that the rent is also still rising whilst incomes are not moving forward. So we are in a place where London, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are pricing their cities into non-sustainable situations and it has been going on for the better part of two decades. All these places have been trailing demand for over a decade by a decadent amount, whilst they should have been ahead of the curve for at least a decade.

When we look at the following quote in the Guardian “Campbell Robb, the chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter. “It is promising to see the government finally focusing on building more homes. But the only way to truly solve this housing crisis is for both the mayor and central government to finally prioritise building homes that Londoners on ordinary incomes can afford to rent or buy, instead of just higher earners.”“, question marks should be clearly placed, because ‘finally focusing on building more homes’ should have started in 2003 in both London and Sydney. Now, we have to accept that the city is no longer an option for many, yet when we look 4 minutes away from there we see the same trend of shortage. We are face with either not enough, or not affordable. A increasingly larger population in Sydney is now confronted that their income will at best support the rent of a mere studio apartment, meaning that the bulk must rely on 2 incomes to get anything above a one bedroom apartment, more than that, the current growth of rent means that any year that an annual increase of 3% is not met or exceeded, the living standard goes down on a quarterly base. These numbers might sound scary, but compared to London it is nowhere near as bad as it gets. The political parties have abandoned its population all for the need and premise of inviting wealth into the UK and Australia, whilst there is no evidence that these people are spending a great deal in those places, other than supporting and funding new unaffordable buildings. This goes far beyond these mere borders, we see a similar evolution in the Netherlands, where the issue is even more interesting as larger proportions of the Netherlands are facing a similar issue we see in London and Sydney. There is no ignoring the act that the Netherlands is only a fraction of the size of the UK (and an even more diminishable part of Australia), which of course drives prices up even faster. The Guardian article shows the most dangerous part at the very end with the quote “Since 2009, the fastest growing locations for new housing have been Barnet, Brent, Croydon, Newham and Wandsworth. In Croydon, the price of dozens of flats in the Coombe Cross development have increased by around a quarter, with one-bedroom flats rising £63,000 to £287,950“, now implying that the outer doughnut is no longer affordable, moreover, the fact that not more alerts are ringing all over Whitehall with an increase of 25% is even more unsettling. The average UK salary might be set at £26,500, but that implies that well over 50% of the UK is faced with a house price well over 1,000% of their income, making it never an option. That same trend is seen in Australia, where the median house price is now set at one million, setting the house price on average between 1,500% and 2,000% of their income, an issue that could have been avoided if the parties a decade ago had set clear paths in motion to battle this dangerous trend. Whilst both places are steering towards the New York unaffordability we are also faced with a situation that our values of life are in equal decrease, because as we move from nations that are no longer ‘working to live’, but nations that moved to ‘live to work’, our values will diminish faster and faster and it is all due to a path of greed and a path of flaccid and unreliable politicians. Labour UK 1997 – 2010, Labour AUS 2007 – 2013, in Australia partial fault is also with the Liberals as John Howard was sailing the good Ship Wallaby from 1996 – 2007. All parties that seemed to forget that not everyone can afford to live on a $100K+ income and we will be paying for their shortcomings for a long time to come.

I wonder if it ever gets properly solved without having to resort to ‘culling’ the population at large.

 

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