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Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Closes With Questions Over Building Failure

Report promised as soon as possible but Phase 2 not likely to start until perhaps 2020.

Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick brought Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry to a close on 12 December 2018 after 88 days of intensive evidence involving 598 core participants. The proceedings are recorded in diligent word-by-word transcripts which provide an extremely personal and detailed record of the sad sequence of events which unfolded as the fire took hold of and consumed Grenfell Tower.

The purpose of Phase 1 was to establish the detail of what happened. Piecing together the evidence from so many sources has been a complex process. Now that phase is over. Sir Martin looks to provide a Phase 1 report as soon as possible (sometime in late Spring, perhaps?). And he hopes that it may be possible to make recommendations touching on public safety without waiting for the final Inquiry report which is likely to be some time away. That would be very welcome, to stifle speculation.

Preparation for Phase 2 has started. The intention is that hearings will take place as soon as possible. But given the weight of work in front of the Inquiry team, the chairman thought it unlikely that hearings could begin before the end of 2019 – an extended timescale that many may well find difficult and frustrating. Government is already taking various actions in advance of Inquiry findings being formalised. And conclusions are already being inferred on causes and contributing factors.

Closing statements on behalf of residents picked out what has been described as fundamental building failure which created such difficult firefighting and rescue conditions.

In particular, compartmentation provisions within the building intended to localise and contain fire were overwhelmed by what was an intense, fast-moving vigorous fire on the outside of the building that broke back in through windows at several levels, on all sides of the building. Counsel for the various resident groups picked up observations concerning breaching of compartmentation as a major factor in fire and smoke spread through the building.

Phase 2 involves examining the design and execution of the Grenfell building refurbishment together with the regulatory framework, the role of relevant authorities with respect to those regulations, and the response of central and local government. The chairman’s expressed intent in closing remarks to focus attention on the critical circumstances and decisions which led to such a devastating fire. No doubt the process will be just as thorough, and likely to be perhaps on a larger scale than phase 1.

Standard glazing and windows are not significantly resistant against fire, not in any way sufficient to either effectively contain fire within the building, or to prevent fire breaking back in at other places from the outside of the building as fire spreads across a facade. Fire-resistant glazing is necessary, in tested and appropriately approved fire-resistant framed systems to provide significant resistance against fire and smoke penetration. It is also especially important to fire stop the cavity around the frames to inhibit easy fire penetration into the surrounding fabric of the building.

Unless fire-resistant glazed systems are used, the windows will be a key weakness in external compartmentation. At least bands of fire-resistant glazed systems should be considered going up and around the building, for high risk residential and other major buildings as a key design strategy to increase levels of building resistance against fire penetration.

Both Pilkington Pyrstop and Pilkington Pyrodur are ideal for that purpose, because of the non-combustible nature of the intumescent inorganic laminate barrier and bonding material used in these products, with such a long-established track record of testing around the world in various framing options and configurations. A variety of tested solutions are available for today’s buildings.

T A Anders Limited is a longstanding Licensed Supplier of Pilkington Pyrostop and Pilkington Pyrodur fire-resistant glass and glazed framed systems. We stock the entire range at our modern factory in Trafford Park, Manchester, and can process, distribute, install in proprietary frames and provide appropriate fire safety and product guidance if required relating to the applications. For further information, product specification advice, information and test evidence. please contact T A Anders Limited on 0161 736 2487 or Reference

These opinions are offered in good faith but it is the responsibility of the reader to satisfy themselves as to their veracity and form their conclusions

T.A Anders & Co. Ltd
Unit 12 Guinness Road Trading Estate
Guinness Road
Trafford Park
M17 1SB
Tel: 0161 736 2487
Fax: 0161 736 3824
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