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Discussion > Grenfell Tower - Deadly Fires: Mismanagement, or just no managers present

Jun 16, 2017 at 12:13 AM by Pcar

Tim Newman's article: DesertSun: Deadly Fires

Your link is too valuable to disappear into the bowels of Unthreaded, so I have created this thread.

The article, by Tim Newman on June 14, 2017, is excellent, but even more to the point is his response to this comment by Bernie G:

I appreciate incompetents are an ongoing issue with your good self but, like as not, you have to accept there will always be a finite number of people equipped with more than half a brain, and this limited pool has to be distributed across a very wide area. In defence of the inadequate [...]

Tim Newman replies:

I would accept that had I not seen too many people with half a brain sidelined for not being “on message” and a bumbling halfwit put in charge instead, simply because he was politically reliable. The reason halfwits find themselves in these positions is because somebody above them wants halfwits in those positions, and not people who get things done and stop people burning to death but might make the management look bad occasionally.

Yes, to ensure that 'monitoring' was not the most interventionist activity allowed, choose what looks like 'Community Leaders' over those who have observational skills, along with an enquiring mind, knowledge, understanding** and the ability to challenge authority and peer pressure from the Community (that does not have the skills) in the discipline of Building Regulations. For example, no one on the Board of Directors has bothered to highlight any of their professional building qualifications. Were there any? Were there any, anywhere, that could have been of influence?

Tim Newman puts it so well in his article:

How many of the above mugshots do you think are of people who are goal-driven, versus those for whom the process is everything and the outcome immaterial?

And the comments only add weight by citing incidents at other times, other places.

It is no different to RailTrack divesting its engineering knowledge and the Hatfield Crash, where there were four deaths. RailTrack, a privatised company, subsequently went into administration. What can happen to the owners of this tower block?

Bernie manages to squeeze into his (or her) short post the attitude that our Educational Industry cannot increase the number of people capable of inspecting buildings AND ensuring that they are safe, or that they are vacated. It can be done, but it does need hope, belief and backing from the public for politicians to have a chance.

I expect Bernie thinks that spreading incompetence across the nation is a fair way of dealing with this Public Sector dysfunctionality. It is easily done, by the use of taxpayers money and committees to form a consensus:

Abba Eban, Israeli diplomat (1915-2002):

A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.

Most of the Private Sector have recognised that poor Customer Satisfaction hits the bottom line and companies act, sometimes eventually, accordingly. It requires accountability, professional ethics and an understanding that early detection and rectification is cheaper in the long run.

However, many sections of the Public Sector do not have such an immediate feedback mechanism and it is to their credit that it still functions as well as it does, but there are parts that are devoid of any motivation to correct problems. These problems are inherent in its economic and social structures and are due to the ability for individuals to completely ignore the waste of resources and the harmful effects on others. Yes, this happens in the Private Sector as well, but at some point (economic) survival kicks in, so some remedial action does take place. Often it is those changes (by lower management) that cause 'higher management' to get involved who then start the remedial action that should have taken place to start with (one does need hope here). Often, the problem in the Public Sector is that the 'Common Good' means a consensus of silence: just think of every time the word whistle blower has been used.

I don't really have any more spare empathy for disasters outside my immediate circle, especially when the Media attempt to squeeze every that drop from their viewers. (Credit to our local BBC radio station, this morning: the political correspondent explained very well how T May not meeting the Grenfell victims was not the worst thing to have happened this week.)

What is needed is what used to be considered common sense: competent people doing jobs in which they are capable.

Yes, and the Climate Change Hockey Team qualifies as a target for this rant! Wealth has been wasted; research has been misdirected; honourable careers cut short; public health issues created; Science corrupted; children's views of Science and thinking in general corrupted; an agenda driven News and Current Affairs Industry and a very ill informed public. SNAFU, but without the hope! Will things improve? Errrr, that hope, isn't it? :)

** I would not include training, as this does not ensure understanding or knowledge, only that someone's physical presence was noted at some time and place in the past.

Jun 16, 2017 at 12:34 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

In the search for culptits we should start with the 2008 Climate Change Act. After that the hubris, stupidity, incmpetence and greed were sure to follow.

Jun 16, 2017 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

TerryS in Unthreaded wrote:

Grenfell Tower outer cladding.

The outer cladding comprised of 150mm of Celotex FR500, 50mm ventilated cavity and 3mm Zinc Composite.

The celotex has Class 0 fire performance rating which is the highest performance classification you can get.
I'm unable to determine the exact zinc composite panels used but they are likely similar to these. Note the the 50mm air gap appears to be needed for the struts the panels are mounted on. The polyethylene core is fire retardant.

There is some fake news going around that the cladding was put on simply because the posh neighbours thought it was an eyesore. This isn't the case. The cladding was added because the U-value for the existing wall was 1.5W/m2.K which is 5 times higher than current regulations allow.

It is possible that everybody followed or even exceeded the building regulations and still the tragedy occurred.


Just thought I'd quote this in full as I found it quite interesting.

The Source link shows that there was a 50mm cavity. It appears that in some installations where there are cavities a non-flammable barrier is installed in a series of rings around the building to stop flames traveling upwards inside the cavity. A google search of that council's planning applications and terms such as 'corofil' (a brand of barrier) or 'cavity barrier' show that there have been applications where barriers were included in the plans. I don't know if this is something the planning department would insist upon or even consider.

In the same Source link, in the same section detailing the insulation, I noticed that the refurbishment of the panel between the windows was to be insulated with 100mm Celotex FR5000 and also 25mm Celotex FR5000. Celotex FR5000 isn't available in 25mm thickness according to the Celotex website, but going by it used to be.

Jun 16, 2017 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

It would seem to be much to early to assign causes or assign blame. I have read that the cladding was a fire hazard and that it incorporated a fire retardant, that it was covered in aluminium or with a zinc compound, that fire resistant intervals were present, or had been removed, that fire spread upwards between the cladding and the wall and thus could not be suppressed by fire fighters (in which case how did those spaces get oxygen?) as well as varied estimates of how fast the flames spread - some of which are unbelievable. I think I'll wait until we get an official preliminary report.
What is unbelievable is that some elderly residents (some in their 80s) were located in quite high locations. These would have been a danger to themselves and to others trying to escape.

Jun 16, 2017 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

Just for ref
Grenfell : BTW a similar fire happened in Australia in 2015
Aluminium is a a fantastic fuel so it’s important quality safe panels are used , not cheapo ones.
“The aluminium composite panel cladding, called Alucobest, commonly used in high-rise apartment buildings in the past 10 years, is imported from China and is significantly cheaper than the more fire-retardant and non-combustible Australian-made Alucobond, which complies with safety and fire standards.” more

Jun 16, 2017 at 5:11 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Note TerrS made the point Grenwell is different cos it had zinc not aluminium

Anyway ..Grenfell Tower : I don't care much , reporting and speculation is not a good thing.
It just illustrates to me , the madness of crowds and public brainwashing
Every day across the planet there are couple of such events , bus crashes in India, demonstrations turning into stampedes etc.
There's little point in investing time in looking at news reports and speculating
The dead are dead and there's not likely to be another fire next week .
They'll be a preliminary fire expert report in a few weeks and only then to we need to challenge that etc.
meanwhile the media should leave the victims alone.

Yet when may thousands of girls were groomed and raped, the media largely avoided in depth reporting
still going on i seems there was a prosecution last week for a Sept 2016 event.
There needs to be as KT Hopkins said a "lasting solution"

...Now Grenwell seems to be like Hillsborough an tragedy highjacked for political purposes.

Jun 16, 2017 at 7:24 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Jun 16, 2017 at 4:24 PM | Supertroll

This is what I posted previously on" Unthreaded"

"Jun 14, 2017 at 10:14 PM | Pcar

Cladding a building as part of a refurbishment, is carried out for many reasons, but reduced maintenance costs is normally the first.

The opportunity to improve insulation, sound as well as heat, to reduce running costs for owners and/or occupants, then becomes very cost effective as an extra cost.

The building's appearance will be changed, so the opportunity to alter and improve it, is available.

Unclad concrete buildings do not normally suffer from the spread of fire externally. Flames normally spread from within, to the outside via windows.

Jun 15, 2017 at 1:15 AM | golf charlie"

The concrete structure has not burnt or collapsed. I think the media have confirmed my second last sentence. My final sentence was an observation.

It was a warm night, and flats may have had their windows open. The glass may have been toughened, but if the frames burned or melted in the heat, the glazing would have fallen.

Jun 16, 2017 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

There are so many people demanding things that will happen anyway, given time, yet what most want is due process, which means it is done properly. It is distressing, but the goal needs to be to do what is necessary at the appropriate time, from giving care to the legal process. Be angry, OK, but hurling abuse at people with little, if any, cause doesn't get anyone anywhere, especially when it is on TV or threatening public officials (or anyone else). I don't watch the MSM for news, but it looks like this is not known by most of the MSM.

It's not the article, but three of the comments that were of interest because they list a few demands/questions/facts which have been met/cannot be answered/explain why answers are not forthcoming just yet:
ConservativeHome: Joe Carlebach: What I saw and heard when I went to help at Grenfell Tower
"Victor Southern
I saw the demands :
That the Council release numbers of those who have died. Impossible since the Council has no way of knowing how many were present and some remains are not yet recovered. Even the list of tenants will not reveal who was actually living there that fateful night.

That the Council guarantee to immediately rehouse all the families in the Borough. Clearly the Council could not possible have 100 or more dwellings standing empty and has said that they are asking neighbouring boroughs to assist.

That there be an inquest. By law there will be.

That there is an Enquiry. Already announced.

In other words just anger but pointing in every direction and without possible or reasonable outcomes.

If the questions were why there were no sprinklers and no working fire alarms - that would be cogent. Allegedly the stairs were blocked. How, when and by whom?

A lot of people are in huge distress and one can understand that but rabble-rousers never do any good in these incidents. But they may do a lot of harm by interfering in recovery and in positive steps to distribute emergency aid. There are many officers working like mad over this but in fear that a mob may invade their working space as they labour and that they might not be safe as they come and go.

As I understand it, many who survived but are in hospital are in induced comas. The hospitals are probably only now figuring out who some of them are.

The cladding was accepted because it met building regs part L. There is no way that cost entered into it - the £5,000 difference is utterly trivial in a contract of £2.6 million for the cladding.

You are posing the wrong questions. The first is why was money being wasted on any cladding? The benefit in energy saving is tiny relative to the project cost: I estimate it would take 100 years to pay for itself, by which time it would have needed to be replaced several times. It would never pay off. The building was never designed to be clad anyway, and had survived 40 years without any cladding. The money should have been spent on other safety measures such as a properly working fire alarm system, sprinklers at least in the common parts so that there was more chance of escape, and probably some additional escape stairs from the lower floors, as well as sorting out the access problems that residents had complained about.

As to the cladding itself, it is obvious it should simply not have been on the approved list at all at any price. It was, so the box got ticked that it met the standards laid down in law. The EU is the backstop here, but usually the UK gold plates EU regs - see here for more on this:
Green Public Procurement
Thermal Insulation Technical
Background Report

Report for the European Commission – DG Environment by AEA, Harwell, June 2010
Owner, Editor: European Commission, DG Environment-G2, B-1049, Brussels.
Disclaimer: The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to the information presented in this document.

(I don't know if the pdf is of interest.)

I expect that finding injured people in any hospital is difficult with the NHS protecting patients' privacy. It is a legal requirement and I expect that every NHS employee takes it very seriously.

I would also have expected that any emergency procedures would have been kept up to date by the NHS senior management. It should be part of their job description.

I have seen that there is at least one academic institution that has offered accommodation as the academic year is just ending and have plenty of empty rooms available over the summer, so commandeering the few empty mansions (probably illegal) in the area is not necessary. And just think of the furniture and furnishings that would need to be moved or insured!

Jun 17, 2017 at 12:23 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher


Thanks and excellent review, highlights & summary

Tim Newman's follow-up is also illuminating:

White Sun of the Desert : Further thoughts on the Grenfell Tower

Especially the rent being paid by taxpayers to house migrants

Jun 17, 2017 at 12:45 AM | Registered CommenterPcar

@AK, Jun 16, 2017 at 4:24 PM

Weasel post trying to deflect valid criticism of Labour's behaviour.

Fail, must try harder.

Jun 17, 2017 at 12:50 AM | Registered CommenterPcar

Sprinkler systems are the obvious answer, but owners and occupiers don't like the damage and costs involved in them activating or being deliberately activated, when there is no fire. In a high rise building, a supply of water has to be stored at the top. Stagnant water in tanks causes further problems (Legionnaire's etc) if not maintained/chlorinated.

A sprinkler system would not have been installed between the original external concrete wall, and the outer skin of the cladding. It would not have put out the fires within the cladding, or prevented flames entering the building from outside

Jun 17, 2017 at 1:45 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

PCar Jun 17, 2017 at 12:50 AM |

Could we just take it as read that you are going to find fault with anything I write (even in a case like this one that golfCharlie claims he also wrote earlier)? This would save everybody a great deal of time. How you can conclude that I interpreted my post to be an excuse for Labour strains credibility, but there y'go.

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

Robert Christopher may well be right to point the finger at climate change policy. For the poor souls of Grenfell cheap energy would have been a better solution than external insulation. Climate policy has introduced another low risk high impact issue from the introduction of “Greenfreeze”, which is isobutane, as a replacement refrigerant in domestic refrigerators.

Hundreds of millions of refrigerators containing, admittedly a small quantity, of a potentially explosive compound together a with significant quantity inflammable polystyrene are now performing normally worldwide. However a few catch fire or explode when the refrigerant leaks and is ignited possibly by an arcing thermostat. Just google “exploding fridge”.

Jun 17, 2017 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterDavid Holland

Composite panels had come under increasing scrutiny in the UK since the late 1980s.

And this from the Guardian:

From the Guardian regarding similar cladding. Frankfurt in 2012.

Frankfurt’s fire director Reinhard Ries is on camera saying: “The fire took hold extremely quickly, reaching incredible temperatures immediately.”

The styrofoam soon turned into a “liquid, burning sea”, he says. “Everything within 300 seconds had developed into a huge fireball as if thousands of litres of petrol had been set alight.”

The incident led to Frankfurt fire services putting out a nationwide appeal to firefighters to log similar fires – 100 were logged up until 2017 –

and Ries and his department started lobbying German politicians to rethink cladding whose main purpose was to increase insulation and energy efficiency.

Jun 17, 2017 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterhusq

Minty: I am getting the distinct impression that Pcar does not like you. Why could that be? He/she is not an ex-student of yours, by any chance? Also, how is “Pcar” pronounced? Is the “P” silent?

GC: they could always install the low-water system found on (some) oil platforms, where the water is atomised out of the nozzle. Far more effective, and far less water damage, but does require high pressure. Also, such should only be for public spaces, to protect the escape route(s).

It is sad though, how so many are making such political capital out of this tragedy… but, what’s new? As Rob says: “Everything which could be done was done… We may never know the reason.

Jun 17, 2017 at 1:36 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Husq: so there is strong evidence that there could be flaws in EU building regulations, regulations that the UK still has to follow? Who knew? So… tell me again… other than having someone "higher up" that the government can pin blame onto, what are the benefits of remaining in the EU?

Mr Johnson was spot on, too. The main problem is, few people read what he actually wrote, but quite happily put spin on what they think he wrote. He never claimed that he caused the reduction in number of fires, and he never implied that his opinion was worth more than the mythical “hundreds of fire fighters” that one person seems to know all about. He had nothing but praise for the fire service, and pointed out that, had Mr Khan felt that it lacked the funding, he had ample within his budget to correct that (as well as having sufficient time, by now, surely?). Funny how such truths are missed out, isn’t it?

Jun 17, 2017 at 1:54 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

GC: they could always install the low-water system found on (some) oil platforms, where the water is atomised out of the nozzle. Far more effective, and far less water damage, but does require high pressure. Also, such should only be for public spaces, to protect the escape route(s).

Jun 17, 2017 at 1:36 PM | Radical Rodent

The water is sea water, and the pressure generated by pumps. I assume that Oil Platforms have to have emergency generators, like ships, located away from main engine/generator rooms, to deal with fires in those locations.

Atomised sprays of water are very effective and efficient at cooling and extinguishing fires per litre of water used. Atomised sprays of fresh water from roof airconditioning units are the normal cause of Legionnaire's disease outbreaks in the UK, hence my previous comments about chlorination.

The diesel fuel to power the emergency generators would have to be stored in roof tanks aswell, and diesel fuel can not be stored indefinitely without problems, Google "Diesel Bug", the bane of boatowners, and the reason why many emergency diesel engined generators conk out, it is the fuel, NOT the engine.

I agree that atomised spray sprinklers could/should be done but, but the cost of providing a system, AND maintaining it, is more involved than the costs currently being plucked out of thin air.

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Radical Rodent, Diesel Bug, your Starter for Ten

Roadside fuel stations, and vehicles used regularly tend not to have problems, due to supplier additives and high turnover.

A sailing yacht (for example) may have diesel bug sludge growing in the film of water at the base of its fuel tank, for seasons without it being noticed. A rough day sailing stirs it all up. When the engine is started, to get into a harbour, the fuel filter blocks, and the engine dies.

Yes, I have suffered from diesel bug! I have been a satisfied customer of Grotamar and Marine 16, which use the same biocide, to prevent and kill the bug. No product completely breaks down the sludge though.

Diesel and petrol both deteriorate over time, irrespective of fuel contamination. I have no idea how this is dealt with for fuel stored for emergency generators on land, such as STOR Short Term Operating Reserve.

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Some relevant bits n bobs about the fire

Please share

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:51 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Minty: I am getting the distinct impression that Pcar does not like you. Why could that be? He/she is not an ex-student of yours, by any chance? Also, how is “Pcar” pronounced? Is the “P” silent?

Jun 17, 2017 at 1:36 PM | Radical Rodent

I will have a speculative guess that the pronounciation is Picard, as in Jean Luc.

Jun 18, 2017 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The water is sea water, and the pressure generated by pumps.
Well, duuuh…

Why do we have to have a roof tank? Could we not have it feeding from the fire mains, with a pump (or pumps) providing the pressure? There will be a 7 bar loss for the top floor, so a booster pump may be required, but I am sure that it should be feasible to have ground-level services for this, making installation and maintenance easier and less expensive. The actual quantity of water may be less than standard sprinkler systems, but activation of the system could be problematic.

Jun 18, 2017 at 12:32 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:51 PM | tomo

I expect this Wikipedia entry to be updated frequently.

Jun 18, 2017 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Radical Rodent:
"Why do we have to have a roof tank? Could we not have it feeding from the fire mains, with a pump (or pumps) providing the pressure?"

1. Assuming they are full, roof tanks need no power to operate

2. What is a Fire Mains? I apologise if that seems pedantic! A "Wet Riser" is a pipe rising within a building with pressurised water in it. A "Dry Riser" is an empty pipe that Fireman Sam can connect his hose to, from the pumped supply in his fire engine. Your fizzics is betterer than wot mine is, but pumping water up 100feet takes a lot of pumping.

3. Booster pumps. Where do you put them, and how do you power them? If you could make a Booster Pump Room Fire Proof, why not a flat?

Jun 18, 2017 at 2:36 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The planning application specified a zinc composite panel to be used yet they actually used aluminium composite panel. I haven't been able to find anything in the planning docs to explain this.

They did provide this which is a list of materials used for the external finish. It shows that the panels where Reynobond Duragloss 5000.

The panels come in 3 versions, PE, FR and A2. Much is being made about them opting for PE over FR since the FR stands for "fire retardant". Despite this the PE panel is certified BS476 part 6 & 7 as Class 0, which is the highest available UK classification.

This drawing has the following phrase:

Panels being made up to suit materials available from supplier at short notice

This hints that they may have been let down by one supplier and had to take what they could get from another at short notice.

One final note, the manufacturers of Reynobond seem to indicate in this document that PE should only be used for the first 10m, FR up to 30m and A2 beyond that.

Jun 18, 2017 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The fire main is the constantly-pressurised network from which fire appliances get their water, when their tanks run dry. Hydrants drawing from it are indicated by a small, yellow plaque with a big, black “H” on it; commonly available throughout most towns and cities. When the appliance arrives, one crew set up a hose drawing from the appliance tank, another crew is looking for the hydrant, and connecting the supply to the appliance.

The pump (and any booster pump) does not have to be in the tower block; they could service more than one such block, and situated far enough away for the fire to present minimal hazard. They can be surprisingly small; a centrifugal pump big enough to deliver 500m3/hr at 15+ bar could fit in your carry-on baggage. The most logical drive would be an electric motor, though an internal combustion engine could provide “independent” operation. (As usual, there could be problems with locals “liberating” any fuel stored, but – hey! – if that is done, and fatalities occur, you can always blame the evil Tories, in some way or other.)

Jun 18, 2017 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent