So, this was a disturbing tweet the other day:
Last week was the one year anniversary since the Grenfell fire tragedy that took the lives of 72 people. I am sure we can all remember how we felt when we watched those horrendous scenes play out live on TV. I remember well the anger, outrage, frustration and sheer grief in the days that followed. Distraught family and friends begging for answers and information about their loved ones and what caused the fire that engulfed the building in so little time.
In the weeks and months after the disaster, various investigations are now under way to ascertain answers to a whole variety of questions, including the cause of the fire, the materials used in the building’s refurbishment and the advice given by the fire service at the time.
As an industry, we have had a keen interest in the progress of these investigations, as many in our sector would be involved in sectors such as fire doors, insulated cladding, windows etc. As we know, the cladding and fire doors have been of particular interest during these investigations, and the reports coming out at the moment paint a highly worrying picture.
That tweet above, if correct, would represent a massive failing of the products that were supposed to have met the required standards and that many millions of us had put faith in. If the information in the tweet is indeed correct, that would be nothing short of a crisis in the fire doors industry. That would be 700,000 fire doors that are not fit for purpose.
If proved to be accurate, that would be an enormous failing on all sorts of parties, including manufacturers, testing houses, installers and the regulatory bodies themselves. These are supposed to be doors which form part of a wider fabric of products designed to keep people safe from fire for as long as practically possible. If 70% have indeed failed, there will be a lot of people feeling very uneasy right now.
This is what has to be remembered at all times when dealing with such sensitive and fundamental issues like this. People are affected. Families, relying on the products that come to market to make sure the things most important to them are kept safe.
Massive regulatory overhaul
The reports and investigations are all ongoing. It will be a while before all are concluded and full results are established. However, over time, we’re going to find out nuggets of information like this which will go some way to paint a picture of the overall state of affairs. Right now, it looks bleak.
Numerous factors look set to get the blame here, including product and installation of those products. Perhaps also scrutiny should be given to those putting the timetables for such refurbishments together. Perhaps if more time was allowed on these types of projects then quality of installation could be better. At the end of the day, you can have the best window, door or any other product for that matter, but if it’s not installed correctly, it’s useless.
What is needed is a major overhaul of all of the existing building regulations. There can be nothing less than that. I remember distinctly in the weeks after the tragedy that many of us were calling for huge changes to be applied to the regulations. The generally commentary, as I am sure it remains now, was that the current crop of regs were far from perfect and were much needing of sweeping changes. I would hope that a year on that energy hasn’t gone.
It remains far too easy for companies to get around the rules. Be it in the window and door industry, or on refurbishment contracts on larger buildings. All too often I see window companies around my neck of the woods flouting the rules. I have seen windows without fire escapes fitted to upper floor bedrooms. I have seen people over-clad fascia boards to a gable end from a ladder in 50mph winds. I have seen roofline jobs done without the proper scaffolding. On all occasions I am sure they will have all got away with it. No rules with teeth, no fear of doing it the wrong ways.
At the moment, this industry-wide issue lies at the feet of those who create said building regulations and those responsible for enforcing them. So namely successive governments. Even if this current Government were to introduce a root and branch review of building regs, there aren’t the bodies or organisations to enforce them to the point where companies would be scared to bend the rules. Even FENSA only check installers three times a year. That’s plenty of time for rogue installers to flout the rules without getting caught.
Massive change is needed. However, I fear that as time goes on, the momentum following the Grenfell disaster is going to be lost and any changes that may be suggested following the completion of the various investigations won’t be enough to make any material difference to the current status quo.
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