It happens, we fail others. At times it cannot be helped, it seems naturally that people forget about safety issues and condemn a whole building with bad cladding. It is just one of those things. Especially in Melbourne when after the 2014 fire in the Lacrosse Building, an apartment block in Melbourne’s Docklands 170 buildings were found to be non-compliant. Almost 5 years later, 19 months after the Grenfell tower event in London where 72 people lost their lives, we are now confronted that with 2000 buildings audited 360 are a high risk, 280 are moderate risk and 140 are low risk. You can drizzle it down, yet the cold fact is that 40% of the buildings are a risk, so over 5 years not one fuck was given for the safety of people (was that diplomatic enough?)
It is even worse when we see: “Last year those regulations were tightened in Victoria to ban the use of aluminium composite panels that contain more than 30% polyethylene“. Yet this is not the whole picture, it is actually a lot worse. The BBC gave us (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43558186) in April 2018: “In the standard European tests for “reaction to fire”, products are rated A to F – with A being the top rating. Reynobond PE had a certificate based on a rating of B”
The part that is missing is the part I gave view to in June 2017. The brochure itself gives us: “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‘”. I wrote this in the article ‘Under Cover Questions‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/). How did the BBC miss this? Then there is the fact that the flame test was done on a horizontal piece. Two direct questions that are clearly constructed from the mere brochure of the product. So how did officials in the UK and Australia miss these parts? That is before questions come up regarding the limit given of: ‘perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high‘, so how high was Grenfell, a mere 40 feet? How high was the Melbourne building? For me the line: “Laws introduced last year include a new funding three-way model that would allow owners’ corporations to take out a commercial loan to replace cladding and then pay it back through their council rates in an effort to encourage owners to act more quickly, but so far that model has not been used” is merely met with laughter. From my point of view, any participant who was part of the installation and acceptance of this cladding should be banned from construction for life. Unless you all agree that reckless endangerment of life is merely a trivial matter, I reckon that the family members of the 72 Grenfell victims feel a lot less trivial about the mess.
I also think that the quote “Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne says removing flammable cladding from the most high-risk buildings in Melbourne is a ‘complex problem’” I believe that Richard Wynne is off his rocker, the careless endangering of lives is not complex at all. And if this falls on the municipality to fix, it should come with the automated stage where anyone involved in allowing for this cladding should be banned for life in the construction or retrofitting of anything that receives any government funding, never to be allowed to be involved in anything that has more than two floors. It was not that complex was it? There is the additional part where he quoted 14 hours ago where he stated that 60 buildings were higher risk, whilst reliable sources (read: the guardian) has that number at 360, which is a 600% difference, a little too high a difference. In addition there is the stage of: “The average cost of replacing combustible cladding is between $40,000 and $65,000 per apartment unit, leaving “total rectification” of a block in the millions of dollars“. In that regard, why did the police not raid the offices of the involved parties confiscating all papers and contracts so that they could be scrutinised?
The facilitation towards the incompetent as I personally see it is just a little too overwhelming at present. It gets worse when you realise that this is not just Victoria, In NSW we see: “An audit found more than 1000 buildings across NSW have the dangerous cladding“, which now gives me the thought, did anyone ever look at the Reynobond PE brochure? Two essential and elemental questions were raised (the 40 foot limit) as well as the horizontal flame test. Both should have immediately disregarded Reynobond as an option, so how come that the hard questions that need to be placed at the side of Richard Wynne, as well as his NSW counterpart are missing? I would like to add the question on how this is suddenly very complex, but that might just be me.
It does not end there
You see, the issue is larger than what we see. ITV showed that yesterday (at https://www.itv.com/news/london/2019-02-11/fire-chief-stands-by-controversial-testimony-to-the-grenfell-inquiry/), it is at that point that we get treated to: “London’s fire chief says she stands by her controversial testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry, insisting she would not change a thing about the way crews responded.” you see, the part that people ignore, hiding behind emotions (some for all the right reasons) is: “I think it’s absolutely right that the inquiry will look at the whole process around not just our response but more importantly how the building came to be in that state because the building should never, ever have had that cladding on and had the lack of provisions for those people inside.” Too many players want to get around the one part that is at the heart of the matter ‘the lack of provisions for those people inside‘. The sprinkler issue, an issue that might make some sense when a building is 4 floors high, yet for a 20+ floors building there is no sense at all, and fire doors that were not there. The BBC gave a list in June 2018 (at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44351567).
- Most of the fire doors at the entrance to the 120 flats had been replaced in 2011 but neither they or the original doors still left in place complied with fire test evidence.
- The fire service had to pump its own water into Grenfell Tower – the building’s “dry fire main” system was “non-compliant” with guidance at the time of construction and was “non-compliant with current standards”.
- The smoke control system did not operate correctly, reducing the ability to improve both escape and firefighting conditions.
These are three elements that had a huge impact. The first two would have made delay and containment of the fire impossible and the ‘stay put’ order became a death sentence, no fire chief would have been ready for that. The overall failing in all this building alone warrants a large stage of arresting several players for corporate manslaughter and those were the obvious failings (beside the cladding), the last goes on a little longer making obvious question clear, ‘Why aren’t people in prison at present?‘ It is in that regard that the one person that should not be prosecuted is Fire Chief Dany Cotton. I do believe that this inquiry is essential as is her voice in this, yet this inquiry should be happening whilst several connected parties should be in prison awaiting the outcome, not watching it from a comfortable chair in the living room.
And it goes from bad to worse
Inside Housing reported three weeks ago: ‘Council to spend £500,000 keeping KCTMO running‘, so not only are we and the family of victims confronted with cost cutting measures and now we see that they require half a million to keep afloat? With: “Board papers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) revealed that a total of £750,000 would be spent on Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KTCMO) in 2019/20, with £250,000 being found through the company’s reserves” the pressing question should be why management was not taken away and given to someone else? Even as we accept the quote “KCTMO must remain in existence as a legal entity throughout the Grenfell Inquiry so it can be held to account“, I am all for that, yet they can be parked awaiting prosecution, handing them half a million seems a bit much on every side of this equation.
As we contemplate the impact of the Grenfell disaster, we see that not only is there a larger issue in play, we need to realise that the current viewed inaction in both the UK and Australia should be seen as a larger problem. That is seen most clearly in two quotes. The first is: “The Neo200 apartment building on Spencer Street, which caught fire last week, was classified to be a moderate risk“, the second one is: “Neo 200 achieved certification and approval from the building certifier and relevant authorities at the time. We welcome the opportunity to support any investigation into the incident by authorities.”
It gives direct rise to the concern that certification is as large an issue as well as allowing fire hazardous cladding to be applied to a building. So when we see that ‘Some 360 private buildings had been deemed high-risk‘, we need to conclude that the building regulations have now failed well over 360 times and in that regard, knowing that there were clear issues going back to the Lakanal House fire of 2009, when we realise that sources gave us “breaches of fire safety standards in UK are common and lessons from Lakanal House have not been learned“, we see that issues with building regulations, and breaches in fire safety have been allowed to go unchecked for almost a decade, in that light, stronger questions need to be asked of the political players as well as the policy makers. Even as the earlier failures by Southwark council are well documented, how is it even possible that these failings are still happening close to a decade later?
I fear that we are failing others by our inability to loudly ask the questions that require answers, and we are seemingly finding the response from Richard Wynne that it is a ‘complex problem which will take some time to fix properly‘, we are too accepting of an issue that should have reduced to the largest degree close to half a decade ago, the information of failing has been clearly shown since 2009, the fact that this is ‘still’ complex a decade later should anger a lot of people, especially those in apartments with flammable cladding. Feel free to disagree, yet when you do, don’t come crying when you end up watching your children burn alive. At that point you only have yourself to blame.
It’s harsh, but the inaction on flammable cladding is just that, harsh!