Energy

UK Towns Look For More ‘Death Trap’ Buildings As London Fire Death Toll Rises

REUTERS/Toby Melville

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The UK government has ordered local councils and building associations to catalog tall buildings fitted with similar green energy upgrades believed to have fueled the deadly Grenfell Tower fire.

Localities must supply lists of buildings more than 60-feet tall with a certain type of cladding, or insulation, to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

UK officials also asked for test samples from buildings with aluminium composite material cladding to see if they’re fire resistant. Experts say cladding used to meet “green energy” requirements allowed the fire to rapidly engulf Grenfell Tower.

“There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower,” DCLG Secretary Melanie Dawes said in a statement, according to The Independent.

“While the exact reasons for the speed of the spread of fire have yet to be determined, we have concluded that there are additional tests that can be undertaken with regard to the cladding,” Dawes said. “We are therefore asking local authorities and other registered providers of social housing to identify whether any panels used in new build or refurbishment are a particular type of cladding made of ACM.”

Dawes also said “it was important to stress that ACM cladding is not of itself dangerous, but it is important that the right type is used.” Her statement comes after the death toll from the Grenfell fire rose to 79 people.

Grenfell Tower caught fire about a week ago. The cause of the fire is unknown, but experts had long warned the cladding used to make buildings more energy efficient could create a fire risk if not done properly. Survivors of the Grenfell fire called the building a “death trap.”

Fire witnesses said people were jumping from the tower and even tossing their children to people on the ground to avoid the flames. One baby was caught by a man after being thrown from a tenth-story window by its mother. The baby survived, unharmed.

“I saw people jumping out of their windows,” local resident Khadejah Miller told The Daily Telegraph.

Gaps in Grenfell’s cladding acted as a chimney for the fire once it spread to the outside of the building, allowing flames to quickly rise and engulf the tower. The Telegraph reported there’s evidence Grenfell developers used a cheaper form a cladding that’s not fire resistant.

Developers planned on inserting fire barriers to limit the spread of flames, but experts said any holes in the barriers from pipes and such would render it useless. An April 2016 by Building Research Establishment (BRE) warned an “increase in the volume of potentially combustible materials being applied” to buildings from government green energy policies.

“It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns,” Dr. Jim Glockling of the Fire Protection Association said in the wake of the fire.

“There has been an emerging body of evidence surrounding some of the materials being used and now we have an appalling demonstration of what can happen,” Glockling said.

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