Grenfell renovation proposed temporary removal of fire protections
[Posted by Lara Keller on 19/6/17, Updated 21/9/17]
Inside Housing, 14 June 2017 2:40 pm By Luke Barratt
Safeguards intended to prevent the spread of fire from floor to floor were set to be temporarily removed from Grenfell Tower during a refurbishment, according to documents from the planning application.
A fire tore through the 24-storey Kensington tower block in the early hours of this morning, spreading quickly between floors. The cause of the fire and the cause of the spread are not yet known.
The 2016 refurbishment, which took place after the most recent full fire risk assessment on the tower, included the installation of a new heating system in the tower. This required the replacement of the pipes in the floors.
To install the new pipes, the ‘fire stopping’ – systems used to seal openings and joints to prevent the spread of fire – would have had to be partially removed, under the “preferred option” listed in a report from 2012 by engineers Max Fordham. The document said this option was adopted.
The intention, according to the sustainability and energy statement, was to replace the fire stopping once the new pipes had been installed.
Max Fordham did not respond to enquiries about the safeguards put in place to ensure that fire stopping was replaced properly.
According to information released by Kensington and Chelsea Council under the Freedom of Information Act, the most recent fire risk assessment on the tower was in December 2015, before this work took place.
The heating system in the tower uses pipework in the floor underneath every flat, and according to the sustainability and energy statement, engineers needed to replace all pipes to update the heating system, meaning that fire stopping was removed from every floor in the building.
These plans were approved by the council in 2014, when officers noted that the new heating system would “provide a significant improvement to the sustainability of the building”.
Rydon, the construction company which carried out the refurbishment, has issued the following statement: “We are shocked to hear of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and our immediate thoughts are with those that have been affected by the incident, their families, relatives and friends.
“Rydon completed a refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation] on behalf of the council, which met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards. We will co-operate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time.
“Given the ongoing nature of the incident and the tragic events overnight, it would be inappropriate for us to speculate or comment further at this stage.”