Seventy-two persons were tragically killed by the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. That must never be forgotten. The after-effects don’t stop there. There are serious social and community impacts, and potential after-effects for the health of those who managed to escape safely. A residents’ group has expressed concerns for survivors over the long-term risks of smoke inhalation, recently backed by the Senior Coroner for inner west London. Concerns have also been raised over the possibility of cyanide in the extensive volumes of aggressive black smoke that spread throughout the building.
The conditions arising from the Grenfell fire that caused such a sad loss of life, and that made firefighting and emergency rescue so difficult, are a tremendous shock to authorities. If an overall judgment is to be made, it should be against taking fire safety for granted.
There are many lessons to learn. Amongst those are important conclusions concerning products used in buildings, especially the need for fire-resistant performances in key places to both limit the chances for fire growth and spread and to contain smoke generation with the use of robust fire and smoke barriers that stay in place, in one piece, when exposed to fire.
Learning from the Grenfell fire and its rapid spread to engulf much of the high-rise building is key. Products used to contain fire must be fit for purpose. Resilience against fire is not just a question of simply preventing ignition and limiting surface spread. Performance in resisting fire is potentially critical, at important places in any building.
The way to validate products for resistance against fire is to ensure that they are fully tested to show the required levels of fire resistance, in fire resistance standard furnace tests. That isn’t just one test – but several tests year-on-year over a number of years, backed by rigorous product and process controls. Most importantly the test evidence must be appropriate for the application and a fit with the product as installed.
The indications are that both the cladding-insulation systems used on the outside of the tower and the types of composite doors used for apartment entrances in Grenfell significantly failed to measure up to the key requirements to limit burning, fire penetration and fire growth.
Fire safety design is predominantly based on compartmentation to restrict the chances of internal fire spread. But in the case of Grenfell the fire spread remarkably quickly, almost in the blink of an eye from top to bottom and round from one side to another. Witnesses have recorded their extreme horror and astonished disbelief as they watched the fire spread.
Yet it is possible to ring a tower block with fire-resistant external glazing to prevent fire break out or break in from external fire. If it isn’t thought necessary to make the whole façade fire-resistant then it’s possible to use a design solution akin to a fire break system - with bands of fire-resistant glazing going up the building, say, every five or six floors.
Because 20th and 21st century modern architecture is fundamentally founded on transparency and openness it follows that there is a great demand for effective fire-resistant glass and glazed framed systems. Pilkington Pyrostop® and Pyrodur® can provide solutions from the extensive range of test results that exist for a wide variety of applications. Given the versatility of the products there is always the possibility to develop new applications such as use in a building facade.
T A Anders Limited is a longstanding Licensed Supplier of the well tried and tested 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 fire safety and product guidance if required. For further information, please contact T A Anders Limited on 0161 736 2487