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Home / NEWS / Lessons from London's 2017 Grenfell Tower fire

Lessons from London's 2017 Grenfell Tower fire

by CW Guest Columnist on Sep 25, 2017


Irving Schnider, building construction technologist and freelance cladding advisor.
Irving Schnider, building construction technologist and freelance cladding advisor.
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Irving Schnider, author of Façades – a Practical Guide to Curtain Walls and Cladding, Architectural Glass and Natural Stone, outlines the key lessons that can be learnt – and reiterated – from the UK's Grenfell Tower fire.

Schnider is a building construction technologist and freelance cladding advisor.

Introduction

The recent Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London attracted considerable international attention, and, regardless of a project’s location, lessons of significant importance should be learned from it to avoid repetition. Unfortunately, there is a history of flammable cladding materials being applied on numerous high-rise towers in the UAE as well as other Gulf states over recent years, and several major fires attributable to such materials have subsequently resulted in the introduction of stringent regulations. The latest fire to erupt on the Torch Tower in Dubai Marina – for the second time in two years – is of significant concern, and sheds light on the critical role of the new UAE Fire & Life Safety Code of Practice’s regulations. Additionally, it is also crucial to address the vulnerability of existing buildings clad with materials that do not meet or satisfy the safety requirements detailed in the latest edition of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice.

This is a dilemma confronting municipalities and local authorities, because of the likelihood that fires will continue to erupt until these façades have been remedied to conform, which is what is currently under review throughout the UK. This has resulted in the occupants of several buildings being evacuated, because the properties are considered hazardous. The ownership of buildings in the UAE is likely to preclude such a task being feasible; thus, such buildings may be uninsurable, which would compound the problem.

Cognisance must be taken of the circumstances leading up to the Grenfell Tower fire. Expert reviews should examine why unsuitable materials were incorporated in the structure, and whether specifications, detail design, and workmanship could have been contributory factors. A study of these factors may also support high-rise construction in the UAE.

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