At least 80 people died in the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in June. There were many questions after the blaze was extinguished, and it was discovered that among numerous safety hazards, a particularly combustible form of cladding was used on the facade of the building in order to cut costs. Panicked landlords have begun removing the cladding from their own buildings, but according to experts, this is just making the situation more dangerous.
According to the Guardian, an estimated 600 tall buildings in the UK utilize the hazardous cladding that helped fuel the fire at Grenfell Tower. So far, 233 residential towers have failed combustibility tests as regulators and communities attempt to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t occur. But some people are getting ahead of themselves and just ripping off the cladding without applying a non-combustible alternative. This has left insulation that is even more combustible than the type used at Grenfell exposed. From the report:
Starting three weeks ago, the same combustible panels as used on Grenfell were stripped from many of the flats in Salford by Pendleton Together Housing, which manages the properties for the city council. They left exposed swathes of synthetic phenolic insulation which is rated either B or C for reaction to fire in British Standard tests, which means they are combustible.
Arnold Tarling, a chartered surveyor at Hindwoods and a fire safety expert, said: “It is definitely a fire risk now when it might not have been in the past. Exposed insulation on the exterior of a building is not safe because of the risk of the fire spreading over the surface. It doesn’t comply with building regulations … They have guaranteed there is definitely a fire risk.”
This has occurred in numerous communities around the UK, and some have complained about unclear guidelines coming from the government. New rules explicitly state, “where sample panels are removed they should be replaced immediately with a suitable material.” In some situations, replacement cladding is scheduled to be added soon. But as one resident of the 22 story Thorne House put it, “now it is exposed, you only need some idiot after a night on the drink deciding to conduct their own fire test and the whole block goes up.”
As we’ve previously reported, at least three states in the US and the District of Columbia also allow this particular form of cladding. Though it doesn’t seem to be an issue here just yet, if your landlord suddenly starts ripping off the facade of your building and doesn’t have a replacement on hand, you might want to step in to warn them.