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    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    Agreed, Tom. My private list of people who should now be put in prison certainly includes some politicians. It also includes at least one person from every organization that was involved in this refurbishment, whether they followed the letter of the law or not. The fire risk on this project must have been obvious to all who came into contact with it.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    • CommentAuthorcjard
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    How big is the fire break of wool between bands of eps? Just curious because have burnt polystyrene oacking before and witnessed the ferocious heat generated, it quickly melted my mineral wool insulation to nothing. While wool may not burn in and of itself, I have doubts about its effectiveness as a fire stopping material in this context...

    The other thing I wondered, as I read a sad story about a couple on the 23rd floor who called parents in Italy to say goodbye; if you were stuck on a high floor, could you make it out using household items? Take a shower in your clothes to give some flame resistance, take a bin bag of air with you down the stairwell, swimming goggles so you stand a chance of navigating a smoke filled stairway? Ok, having to run through a corridor of fire isnt going to do your air supply much good but stairwells are supposed to be fire sterile environments. In terms of technology, my dive instructor parents had tiny emergency air canisters, mouth mounted, that have three minutes controlled breathing in case their main tank fails. A full face mask, a boiler suit of fire resistant material.. surely items relatively cheap to supply and easy to train people to use as a backup. Massive fans at ground level that force a corridor clear of smoke; yea they fan the flames but if the stair is sterile do we care that a forced air system is going to effectively torch the flats?
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    The "fire safety ( regulatory reform) june 2005", moved responsibility for fire safety directly to the body that owns or controls a building covered by the act and within the controling organisation there will be a " responsibe person" the mainstay of the regulations is the " fire risk assessment" fra. The idea behind it being that the fra is reviewed periidically or as the buildings circumstances change. This need for review could result from a tenant developing mobility issue and lives on an upper floor to major building works.
    The ever growing regulatory burden has seen many councils form "arms length management organisations" almo's , " tenant management organisations" tmo's. This effectively removes direct responsibility, though the responsible person still exists.
    This is all well and good, however guidelines also state that where justified works flagged up as needed by the fra can be delayed until major refurbishment takes place.
    In an example i know of, a 3 story block built in 1954 still has many original front doors which have just about zero fire resistance, this is noted and notice has been served that the works are " intended" yet 12 years after the act came into being , fire doors are still not in place, yet there is a "stay put "policy in place. The justification being that the common areas have " little combustible material in their construction".
    So a seemingly sensible approach to fire safety is stymied by guidance that is used to justify long term delay in implementing improvements.


    As for suggestions of provision of escape equipment or additional fire fighting eqpt, this flags up the problem of the eqpt provider needing to be sure that all those likely to use said eqpt are able and have sufficient training, otherwise the view is that use of such items possibly puts tenants at greater risk.

    This sort of health and safety ethic goes far and wide, I worked offshore and in the late 80's the fire and survival training was extensive and as realistic as possible at the training centre.
    Real smoke,heat,flames in the escape and fire drills
    Helicopter ditching and life raft drills in pools that were chilled,wave machines,rain and in the dark.

    All this has been sanitised, to the extent of having no reality,
    Synthetic smoke, no heat or flame, only fire extinguisher training,
    Pool warm, no darkness,wind,waves and helicopter ditching reduced.

    All because it was felt the original training was too stressful.
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    Firstly, the changes to fire legislation happened during a Labour administration; Corbyn would be well to remember that, as it was this that effectively removed any form of Fire Certificate.

    Secondly, I don't think it is a failure of any one material, or of the methods used, or even that a 'cheaper' material was used than specified, rather the combination of methods and materials has never been properly researched wrt fire safety in this specific environment. Given the wrong conditions this happened.

    On sprinklers; if you follow the argument to its logical conclusion, *every* domestic dwelling should have sprinklers and they should all be retrofitted (more people die in 'houses' than 'flats' just not in one go).

    On the cause being austerity; don't be stupid. If there was more money available would it have been spent on sprinklers? No.

    Life is a risk assessment and you mitigate as far as reasonably practical. In good faith, the council was trying to improve the insulation and living conditions. They must be wondering why they bothered.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTime7 days ago edited
     
    V interesting info, esp artiglio and borpin.

    Are we saying that Building Control, or failure of, is not relevant; that it's all been taken out of BC hands, given to the owner/controller of the building?
    And that, as suspected, this is a (previous) Labour policy? That would be Prescott's administration of a cabinet policy?
    At any rate, grist to Corbyn's mill - New Labour doing Thatcher-work at least as well as the Tory alternative.
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    What about the initial cause of the fire? I heard it mention a fridge exploded, what the hell were they storing in the thing that results in an electrical fault and/or compressor to spontaneously combust with such results.
  1.  
    Posted By: owlmanWhat about the initial cause of the fire? I heard it mention a fridge exploded, what the hell were they storing in the thing that results in an electrical fault and/or compressor to spontaneously combust with such results.

    My thought too when I heard that on the news.
    Are any domestic refrigerants flammable?
    After a quick search it seems that the answer is yes, as a result of the phasing out of CFCs...
  2.  
    The risk here is that the perfect storm of crap stuff will get in the way of the only issue that matters: EWI that burned. A solution that uses flammable EWI and firebreaks is not just not failsafe it depends on perfect detailing, humans who give a dam, etc etc all above: in short it is fail likely. ALL the other stuff, audible fire alarms etc etc can only mitigate the loss of life thereafter - if it all worked except the EWI you might have 30 dead instead of the 110....

    In a way it is a pite all the other stuff was wrong, the focus needs to be on banning flammable EWI and sorting out the 100s and 100s of similarly attired high rise flats.

    Cjard, what you describe only works for fearless, intelligent, young(ish), sobre, single people - for these people you are right though of course.
  3.  
    Posted By: GotanewlifeThe risk here is that the perfect storm of crap stuff will get in the way of the only issue that matters: EWI that burned. A solution that uses flammable EWI and firebreaks is not just not failsafe it depends on perfect detailing, humans who give a dam, etc etc all above: in short it is fail likely. ALL the other stuff, audible fire alarms etc etc can only mitigate the loss of life thereafter - if it all worked except the EWI you might have 30 dead instead of the 110....

    In a way it is a pite all the other stuff was wrong, the focus needs to be on banning flammable EWI and sorting out the 100s and 100s of similarly attired high rise flats.

    Cjard, what you describe only works for fearless, intelligent, young(ish), sobre, single people - for these people you are right though of course.


    Think you need to include the UPVC windows as well as the EWI as the fatal combination.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Drawings in the media say the cladding was made from a layer of PIR, an air gap and the rain screen. It's not clear if it was the PIR or the rain screen or both that caused the problem.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    What about the initial cause of the fire? I heard it mention a fridge exploded


    From 2009...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1210334/Alert-new-wave-exploding-fridges-caused-environmentally-friendly-coolant.html" >Link to Daily Mail article


    Selected quotes...

    "Alert over new wave of exploding fridges caused by 'environmentally-friendly coolant'"

    The problem appears to result from a widespread switch to 'Greenfreeze' technology over the past 15 years and the use of isobutane and propane hydrocarbon gases as refrigerants.

    Previously CFCs and HFCs were used in fridges but these gases damaged the ozone layer and contributed significantly to global warming. There are now more than 300million Greenfreeze fridges around the world.

    They are designed with safety features to ensure the flammable natural gas inside the pipework cannot leak into the fridge.

    However, if this happens there is a risk of a powerful blast as the gas could be ignited by a spark when the thermostat switches off.
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    From my understanding (open to be corrected) building control have little input in the new regime beyond checking that any new measures put in place as a result of the fire risk assessment themselves comply to building regs. The main onus is on responsible person tovensure the right measures are in place, but this is open to opinion as its based on risk mitigation. Also for a council owned block, the council cannot prosecute itsself, there is an ombudsman that deals with cases where local authorities and social housing providers are found wanting,

    A case in point ( i may have said before) a flat i have in a low rise block has some flats with doors having negligible fire rating, when queried I was told it was in a low risk block and would get done eventually. In another conversation with an enforcement officer dealing with the local private rented sector, I bought it up and was told it would be seen as wholly unacceptable in the private sector , but council can't prosecute themselves and risk assessment means other blocks are priority.
    Amazingly enough I today received notification of replacement doors in said block and what my contribution will be, ( and they've decided it can be done under an existing contract agreement rather than wait for a new tender process) i've already change ddoor to my tenants flat so no doubt there'll be an argument as to wether it complies.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    So, at root there's this typical privatising blind hope that private companies and corporations will conscientiously police themselves to the standard that public inspectors used to, back in the day -
    even when under every pressure to reduce costs to increase profit or even to survive on tight competitive margins -
    and knowing that they'll get away with it (just like Volkswagen had every reason to think they would).
    And that at a time when the remnant of the public inspectorate is itself fatally starved of resources.

    That is what the likes of Corbyn need to make out of all this - the root iniquity and cynical folly, which we all kinda knew and have witnessed, but never had so lethally defined till now.

    It's the very same phenomenon as drives us to despair about non-enforcement of energy regulations.
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Not really, the old fire inspection system was a bit like an MOT, a snapshot of the situation at a given time and measures applied accordingly, the Fire Risk Assessment should be used more as a live document. As such if a landlord becomes aware that a new tenant has mobility problems and would have trouble evacuating a building then the FRA needs reviewing.
    In an effective organisation, there should be flows of information to the responsible person , regarding all manner of activities in a building, in a place like Grenfell this could easily be a full time job, to what extent this happens in practice will no doubt be revealed in this case.
    If you look at the Fire Service data, numbers of fires and incidents are much reduced over the years due to the greater focus on prevention and risk management. Without this tradegy the system would be seen as a resounding success, however this event has occurred and there will be great focus on the design of the cladding and its installation along with the other works that took plac ein the refurbishment.
    There were figures bandied about of a sprinkler system being in the region of 200k can't see that being possible and in any event you need to add in an alarm system and the on going costs of maintenance/servicing and the costs associated with malicious /nusiance and false alarms.
    if you take Grenfell on its own, you had 120 flats, the local housing allowance in the area for a two bed flat is about £300 a week, if the social rent was as low as £200 you have an annual rental income of 1.25 million per annum. Not a huge sum with the regulatory burdens placed on landlords and likely costs associated with a building of this age and construction in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.
    This brings to the fore the unpleasant truth of social housing, done properly its incredibly expensive and if truth were told worse value than the private rented sector. Which is why you see sweetheart deals with developers replacing council blocks with mixed tenure units, often displacing many of the original tenants. I live in the Margate area and there is a steady influx of displaced londoners placed around here by london boroughs.
    The whole system/situation is a mess , created by poor long term planning and a refusal to accept how many people there really are in the country. The spotlight and anger around Grenfell will uncover many uncomfortable truths not directly related to the fire its effect and aftermath.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    I wish you guys would learn to use the quoting. Please go back and edit any that don't appear properly to set the proper "Format comments as" option.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: Artiglioif you take Grenfell on its own, you had 120 flats, the local housing allowance in the area for a two bed flat is about £300 a week, if the social rent was as low as £200 you have an annual rental income of 1.25 million per annum. Not a huge sum with the regulatory burdens placed on landlords and likely costs associated with a building of this age and construction in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

    But what's the cost of knocking it down, and all the others like it, and replacing them with something better?
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    Posted By: owlmanWhat about the initial cause of the fire? I heard it mention a fridge exploded
    Hotpoint tumble dryer?????....
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: djhI wish you guys would learn to use the quoting. Please go back and edit any that don't appear properly to set the proper "Format comments as" option.
    This OK? :bigsmile::bigsmile:
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: ArtiglioThis brings to the fore the unpleasant truth of social housing, done properly its incredibly expensive and if truth were told worse value than the private rented sector.
    Can't agree with you there. Landlords are getting fat on my taxes paid via housing benefit. My local council is currently part way through a 3 yr plan to build 1000 council houses and I think this is the best possible way to improve the situation.

    Several years ago the Govt, instead of Quantitative easing which simply fuelled the equity/bond market, should have borrowed at effectively 0% and put that money into Council building of social housing. The money would have gone into the real economy, reduced the housing benefit bill, kept market rate of rents down, suppressed the house price inflation by squeezing the profitability of Buy to Rent, provided apprentice slots (a requirement of getting money), boosted other parts of the ecconomy as when folk move they tend to spend, given 1st time buyers a realistic chance of getting a house (house prices down), reduced homelessness, reduced reliance on B&B, etc etc

    [rant off]
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: Gotanewlifethe focus needs to be on banning flammable EWI
    All EWI is flammable to some extent. It is a question of how quickly it spreads.

    Posted By: renewablejohnThink you need to include the UPVC windows as well as the EWI as the fatal combination
    Totally agree. I think it is the combination that matters here.

    Posted By: fostertomAnd that at a time when the remnant of the public inspectorate is itself fatally starved of resources.
    Yes. The schools up in Edinburgh that were poorly built is another case in point. Only luck meant one of the walls did not land on 100 kids below.
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Borpin

    I largely agree with what you say, but funding of council / social housing is less than transparent, an example local to me saw a small development, 7 town houses 8 flats. This was funded by land gifted to the association and grants from local and central goverment, the result was the housing association only needed to fund the project to the tune of 38k per unit.
    Sunsequently rents have been set at 80% of the market rent. Rents still largely fundedby housing benefit. So the taxpayer has funded the capital investment to a large extent and still subsidises the rents.
    Historically the sical sector has needed to go back to central government for funds to improve stock allowed to fall into disrepair as a result of lack of investment due to rents being insufficient, the prime example being the 22 billion for the decent homes standard under the Blair goverment.
    The private sector model is far from perfect and needs better enforcement ( hopefuly councils will dothis under the recent changes to how fines are retained) but it places a the risk on the landlord who is then taxed on his profits. Done properly BTL is not a route to riches other than the hoped for capital gains.
    The apprenticeships you mention will not happen, we'll just use labour from the EU, ( conditions or not) the lack of housing is a failure of policy over 50 plus years , rent a room , buy to let, massive foreign investment, blind eye turned to poor/illegal conversions, overcrowding, refusal to accurately quantify poulation size, have all been used to kick the can down the road to the crisis we have now.
    Our political system based on 5 year terms does not encourage stable long term planning / investment, there needs to be a 20 year plus cross party national strategy signed into law for such things as housing and infrastructure , rather than the mish mash of dreams and promises we get in an attempt to buy our vote.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    Posted By: borpinThe schools up in Edinburgh ... Only luck meant one of the walls did not land on 100 kids below
    Yes I was thinking of that recent one - not in itself quite enough, but needs to be re-activated as fuel to the present 'debate'.

    I heartily endorse
    Posted By: borpinSeveral years ago the Govt, instead of Quantitative easing which simply fuelled the equity/bond market, should have borrowed at effectively 0% and put that money into Council building of social housing. The money would have gone into the real economy ...
    that is the key thing - the difference between re-lubricating the real source of all sweated 'wealth', and simply feeding the 'assets' that are constantly siphoned out of it (a crippling private 'tax' or 'rent') and squirreled uselessly into paper stocks and securities (currently something like 50x the 'real' economy and growing) from where only a tiny proportion can ever be re-injected as true value.
    Posted By: borpin... reduced the housing benefit bill, kept market rate of rents down, suppressed the house price inflation by squeezing the profitability of Buy to Rent, provided apprentice slots (a requirement of getting money), boosted other parts of the ecconomy as when folk move they tend to spend, given 1st time buyers a realistic chance of getting a house (house prices down), reduced homelessness, reduced reliance on B&B, etc etc
    Good stuff - I hope Corbyn gets this.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTime5 days ago
     
    Posted By: djhI wish you guys would learn to use the quoting. Please go back and edit any that don't appear properly to set the proper "Format comments as" option.


    and then how do you make links clickable because the html "a" tag for urls doesn't seem to work? See my post above.
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime5 days ago
     
    Posted By: ArtiglioThe apprenticeships you mention will not happen
    Yes they do. they are a prerequisite in my Council area of the contracts being awarded and are closely monitored.

    Posted By: fostertomGood stuff - I hope Corbyn gets this
    I hope they all do.

    Posted By: ArtiglioHistorically the sical sector has needed to go back to central government for funds to improve stock allowed to fall into disrepair as a result of lack of investment due to rents being insufficient
    But that argument does not hold water for any public sector spending. Any work is always done out of current budget. Either you pay more to private BTL rents to cover this, or you budget it when needed - same money at the end of the day.

    If BTL is not profitable, how come so many folks do it? Granted since the Govt changed the tax allowance on interest payments it is less profitable (a good thing).

    I'd also suggest that the rents charged, should be means tested and linked to the housing benefit criteria i.e. if you qualify for housing benefit, that effectively covers the rent (at 80%) and goes up from there. I know someone who has a good salary, but has rented from the council for all their lives. I am not sure they should pay the same as those with limited income. The argument will be the rise in value if they had bought, but perhaps if it was more expensive to rent, there would have been a greater incentive to buy (and thus freeing the property up). Really tricky argument either way.
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime5 days ago
     
    Borpin,

    There is a system ( at least i believe its still in place) regarding income levels and access to social rent levels, it's been dubbed "pay to stay" in some quarters.

    Making money on BTL only really works if you bought and held for a good time, so long as you paid off the mortgage, pick your tenants carefully and rents rise ( in my area rents effectively stood still for over 10 years and have only picked up over last couple of years due to an influx of those selling up in london and moving somewhere cheaper combined with demand from london boroughs trying to house those on their lists) the big win is the capital gains if you hold long enough, though capital gains tax has changed 3 times since I started and each time it becomes a greater reason not to sell. At least that's how it works at the reputable end of the market.
    The less reputable players need chasing out of the sector and hopefully the change from criminal to civil penalties allowing councils to keep fines will spur on much greater enforcement and give councils resources to meet their obligation to rehouse tenants evicted from premises that are closed down or under go refurbishment.
    As pointed out earlier the BTL boom was a response to monetary policy and had the government followed your model additional benefits to those you list may well have been a more stable property market , reduced need for BTL or at least reduce the attraction.
    The market was futher distorted in the benefit driven sector of the market when Gordon Brown introduced Local Housing Allowance at the 50th percentile, under this if benfit recipients could find accomodation under the set level they could keep upto £15 a week, instead rents just jumped to meet the new cap. The tories reduced this to the 30th percentile and removed the "cash back" option. But in the intervening period the market at that level was very attractive and values of properties involved jumped considerably.
    The demonisation of landlords is in large part a divertion of attention from failed housing policy and whilst you may agree with the tax changes regarding interest costs it's likely to cause real pain for decent people who made an investment decision.
    The market is being prepared for the entry of the big pension funds and insurance companies into "build to rent", how this pans out in the long term remains to be seen. But cherry picking of the best tenants could leave social housing picking up the more problematic and result in "sink estates".

    My point about social housing funding is that it is not sustainable and in the long run I'd suspect on a cost per week for accomodation is historically higher than BTL, once you factor in grants, vat relief, tax paid by private landlords, inefficiences in social/council sector, loss of assets as a result of right to buy, etc etc, the headline figure of housing benefit paid out is only a small part of the story.
    In pure cash terms , I'd say social housing is expensive. However the less tangible benefits to society of social housing may well say otherwise.

    Sorry turned into a bit of a ramble, but after 20 years of renting , i've seen some weird things and ideas from all sides. As I said before an open honest appraisal of where the country stands on housing is needed and a long term plan drawn up. Endless tinkering will achieve nothing other than grab headlines and in 40 years when the stock thrown up over the last decade or so starts to need serious attention, we'll hit another crisis point.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTime4 days ago
     
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/19/government-will-cover-costs-of-fire-safety-work-councils-told-grenfell-tower

    "Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, has told senior figures in local government that councils will be fully reimbursed for any building work carried out on tower blocks that could face a similar fire risk to that of Grenfell Tower."

    "Melanie Dawes, the permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, has written to councils ordering them to identify any use of aluminium composite material (ACM). ... However, Javid appears to have gone further in a conversation with the LGA chair. Porter wrote ... He tells colleagues to take the following steps:

    Establish which tower blocks the councils own or manage that have been refurbished.

    Ensure any building control sign-off has taken into account the fire safety regulations (with a number of councils getting independent specialists to check cladding).

    Establish an up-to-date fire risk assessment has been carried out since the refurbishment took place.

    Review first safety advice given to residents.
    • CommentAuthorbarney
    • CommentTime4 days ago
     
    So, basically doing what they should be doing as responsible persons under the RRO then, Tom

    Barney
    • CommentAuthorborpin
    • CommentTime4 days ago
     
    Posted By: fostertomEnsure any building control sign-off has taken into account the fire safety regulations
    And if they have, then what? I doubt Grenfell would have failed this test.

    Interestingly, it is still the Fire Service that prosecutes failures under the various Acts and regulations. Wonder how big that budget is.....
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTime4 days ago
     
    just as Barney says, In light of what's happened, any block that's had external cladding of any type, should have its fire risk assessment reviewed and appropriate action taken where necessary.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTime4 days ago
     
    Posted By: borpinSeveral years ago the Govt, instead of Quantitative easing which simply fuelled the equity/bond market, should have borrowed at effectively 0% and put that money into Council building of social housing.


    It's not a bad idea but how do you persuade tenants to look after these houses once QE finishes? As I recall the cost of maintaining council houses was crippling many councils and was one of the reasons they were sold off.
   
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