What is cladding, why was it used on Grenfell Tower and how many blocks failed tests following the London fire?


CLADDING on tower blocks was ripped down across Britain following the Grenfell Tower fire because of fears it could contribute towards another deadly blaze.

Councils across the country tested materials on their own buildings – here's what you need to know about the controversial decor dubbed a "silent killer".

 Dozens died after a huge blaze hit Ladbroke Grove's Grenfell TowerEyevine Dozens died after a huge blaze hit Ladbroke Grove's Grenfell Tower

What is cladding and why is it used?

Cladding is a material which is wrapped around the outside of a building to improve appearance and energy efficiency.

Colourful green and blue panels designed to improve insulation and soften the look of the brutalist concrete block.

They were fitted to Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London, as part of a £9million refurb completed in May 2017.

Dense foam boards coated in zinc rainproof sheets were spaced 30mm apart across the 24-storey building, which housed 120 flats and at least 500 residents.

A public inquiry which opened in September will look at the material and the role it played in the fire.

In October the firefighters who responded to the devastating blaze were honoured at the Pride of Britain Awards.

 Residents claimed cladding on the outside of the building went up 'like matchsticks' Residents claimed cladding on the outside of the building went up 'like matchsticks'

Was the cladding responsible for spreading the deadly Grenfell fire so quickly?

Just two months before the Grenfell fire London Fire Brigade warned all 33 councils in the capital about the risks of cladding on tower blocks.

The disastrous fire at the 24-storey block was started by a Hotpoint fridge freezer on the fourth floor.

Experts said the composite foam sandwich panels helped spread the fire quickly from the lower floors all the way up the block.

The material used in the cladding on Grenfell was the cheaper, more flammable version of the two available options, an investigation of the supply chain by The Guardian claimed.

Fireproof cladding initially planned for Grenfell was reportedly downgraded so the council could save money.

Leaked emails seen by The Times reportedly show that Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), who managed the building on the council's behalf, saved £293,000 by downgrading the material used to clad the 1970s tower.

Arnold Tarling, 55, of the Association of Specialist Fire Protection, said the foam "went up like matchsticks".

And he said the waterproof zinc coating made it even harder for firefighters to douse the blaze.

He added: “The cladding looks lovely, it’s cheap, complies with regulations and gives the building a high environmental rating. But it’s a silent killer."

Witnesses to the blaze on June 14, which resulted in dozens of deaths, described how the material "went up like paper".

It was claimed the “deathtrap” cladding is banned in America – and a fireproof version could have cost just £5,000 more.

And the cladding’s manufacturers clearly stated in its brochure that it should not be used on a building above a height of ten metres (32ft), according to the Express.

Is similar cladding used on other buildings in the UK?

The number of deadly tower blocks with combustible cladding similar to Grenfell Tower is 208, according to the government.

Five tower blocks in Camden were evacuated as emergency safety work was carried out by the council following the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Cladding was ripped from other towers in areas including Plymouth, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Sunderland.

Fears were also raised that the same flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower could be attached to UK hospitals, schools and hotels.

Ryhl High School in Denbighshire was closed after the county council found cladding on the building was made by the same company who produced that used on the tower block in London.

Concerns were also raised about cladding on three Premier Inns in Maidenhead, Brentford and Tottenham, because they did not appear to comply with government guidance for tall buildings.

Cladding like that used on Grenfell Tower was also found at up to 30 NHS trusts.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid slammed the slow progress of some authorities and landlords and said ministers will force them to take action if they do not ensure flats are safe.

He also said he was considering naming and shaming those councils and housing associations who had failed to provide samples for testing.

On May 16 the government announced a £400 million operation to remove the cladding from tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations.

 Similar panels are believed to have been used on developments across London Similar panels are believed to have been used on developments across London

What are the new cladding fire tests?

The BBC reported that 60 tower blocks had failed new tests carried on both cladding and insulation in the aftermath of the tragedy.

In depth tests checked the cladding in combination with the foam insulation used in Grenfell.

Shockingly, the death trap combination was found in at least 60 other blocks.

Tests were conducted by the Building Research Establishment near Watford and involved setting a fire underneath a mock up of the insulation system used at Grenfell.

  • Topics
  • Explainers
  • Grenfell Tower fire




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