News & PressThe City Surveys Group - The UK's Measurement Specialists
Grenfell Fire Has Far-Reaching Impact
Published: 12th September 2017
This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group
The Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least eighty people in a West London tower block in June has had significant repercussions for many people across the UK, beyond those directly affected.
Residents of towers blocks, local authorities, suppliers and contractors are all feeling the impact of the tragedy, with many – like the surviving Grenfell residents – facing an uncertain future.
57 victims of the fire have so far been identified, but the actual cause remains a mystery. The vast and immediate spread of the blaze has been attributed to Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding covering the building, along with insulation fitted to the block’s exterior, but this is unconfirmed.
Following an urgent review of building regulations by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the government has commissioned a public inquiry into the fire. In tests at almost 200 UK tower blocks, only 8 were found to be safe, the remainder requiring replacement of some or all of their exterior cladding.
Updating the house of Commons with the progress of the investigation, Sajid Javid (Communities Secretary), reported that of the 173 local authority tower blocks tested, the cladding on 165 blocks had failed safety tests.
He warned that this was just the tip of the iceberg as only 89 private, high-rise blocks had so far been tested, despite BRE facilities being available to all owners.
In the wake of BRE tests, safety concerns over cladding have spread beyond the risk of fire. Javid told MPs that cladding on some blocks in Glasgow had been identified as potentially unsafe in high winds. In addition, he highlighted concerns about the Ledbury Estate in Peckham which, without urgent reinforcing, could collapse and cause another tragedy.
Javid said: “The owners of affected buildings have been given details drawn up by our independent expert advisory panel. This covers steps to ensure safety of residents including, where necessary, removal of cladding.”
However, John Healey, Labour’s Housing Secretary, criticised the Tory response as ‘still too slow, too narrow, too confused to do the job that’s needed’.
Speaking to MPs, he condemned the pace of rehousing the 196 households left homeless after the fire. Javid stated that 61 households had so far accepted offers of temporary accommodation and 29 had moved in, while 10 had accepted permanent housing, of which two households had moved in.
Defending the numbers, he said: “I don’t want to see anyone living in emergency accommodation for any longer than is necessary. But nor do I want to see families forced to move or to make snap decisions simply so I have better numbers to report at the despatch box.”
But, for Healey, this was not good enough. He responded: “Twelve weeks on, how on earth can it be that only 29 households out of 196 from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk have been rehoused?”
The full extent of the legal ramifications for the companies associated with the selling, installing and approving of the non-compliant cladding materials will only become clear at the conclusion of the public inquiry. However, many companies have already suffered negative implications.
A prime example is Mears, a UK construction company that obtains most of its work through local authority and housing association contracts.
Shareholders have been warned that revenues for 2017 will be approximately £30 million below target due to the knock-on effect of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Mears claims its efforts are currently focussed on ensuring its housing portfolio is ‘safe and fully compliant’, but this is also expected to lead to delays in planned work orders and further loss of revenue.
David Miles, Mears Chief Executive, said last month: “Whilst the likely revenue shortfall for the full year is frustrating, it is entirely understandable in the circumstances and the will be working closely with its partners and clients at this time to address their immediate priorities.”