• Green concerns trumped safety
• Quest for sustainability pursued
• Gov. ministers were warned about the cheap insulation
• Residents said tower was ‘catastrophe waiting to happen’
• Other towers outfitted with same insulation ‘to meet green energy requirements’
An inferno which engulfed a tower block, killing at least 12 in what could become one of the biggest fire tragedies in British history, was a “disaster waiting to happen”, experts have said.
Fears were raised that green energy concerns were prioritized ahead of safety as it emerged that cladding used to make the building more sustainable could have accelerated the fire.
On Wednesday night, police confirmed 12 people had died following the blaze at Grenfell House in Kensington, west London, but they expected the death toll to rise.
Hundreds of the roughly 500 residents in the block were unaccounted for. Some estimated that the death toll could rise above 100.
A total of 74 people were being treated in hospitals, with 20 of them in a critical condition after the fire, thought to have been sparked by a faulty refrigerator, started just after 1 am on Wednesday and quickly spread up the building.
But as emergency services continued to search the 24-storey building for victims, there were claims that warnings about safety had been ignored.
Government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.
It was installed on the council-owned Grenfell block in 2015 as part of a £10 million refurbishment by a company which was later liquidated after a firm they were working with refused to pay out in a dispute over their work.
Tens of thousands of buildings in the UK have been fitted with cladding, it is estimated, leading to calls for an immediate review of safety.
Experts said that the cladding – which is used to insulate the building – had acted like a “chimney” for the flames by allowing the fire to spread upwards through the gaps between the cladding and the building walls.
Residents had warned that the tower block was a “catastrophe” waiting to happen but their complaints “fell on deaf ears”, they said yesterday.
Dr Jim Glockling, Technical Director of the Fire Protection Association, said that they had been lobbying the Government to review the safety of combustible materials used on the outside of buildings since 2014.
All fire safety regulations are focused on containing a fire within a building, but this cannot happen if it is spreading along the outside.
“There has been an emerging body of evidence surrounding some of the materials being used and now we have an appalling demonstration of what can happen,” he said.
Alongside the cosmetic appeal of cladding, it is used as an insulation to make buildings more sustainable to meet green energy requirements.
“It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns,” Dr Glockling warned.
Matthew Needham-Laing, an architect who is head of construction at Katten Law UK, said that the first known cladding fire in the UK was in 1991 and there had been concerns over in the industry about its fire safety for a number of years.
He said: “This is not a shock, the problems with cladding have been known about and talked about for a number of years and hopefully this will at least make people listen.”
Read more at The Telegraph