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Grenfell Tower

BUREAU VERITAS REITERATES IMPORTANCE OF BEST PRACTICE APPROACH TO CONSTRUCTION AMIDST GRENFELL TOWER FIRE SAFETY LEAK

With furore building around the initial findings of the BRE report into the Grenfell Tower fire leaked to the London Evening Standard, Bureau Veritas has reiterated the critical importance of specification, construction methods and adherence to building standards in ensuring buildings are constructed correctly and appropriately going forward. The reported

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Grenfell Raises Compulsory Sprinkler Installation Discussion

Tragedies like the Grenfell Tower Fire are horrendous, and with the enquiry into the causes and events it seems to be too little too late for those who lost everything that lessons and changes will be made. However, it is thought that one of the issues that will be discussed

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Latest Issue

BDC 317 : Jun 2024

Grenfell Tower

Firefighters union slams government rejection of key Grenfell inquiry recommendation for disabled people

The Fire Brigades Union has written to the government to demand it rethinks its decision to reject a key Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendation, on the evacuation of disabled residents of high-rise buildings. The inquiry recommended that “that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs)” for all disabled residents. But last month the government rejected the recommendation and revealed downgraded plans, which have been roundly criticised including by Grenfell campaigners and disability rights campaigners. The government had promised to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one recommendations “in full”, of which this is one. In a letter to Lord Greenhalgh dated 6 June 2022, Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary wrote [abridged]: “The FBU was disappointed with the Westminster government’s decision to downgrade work towards ensuring residents with disabilities are provided with Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) “The [government] statement claims that implementation would involve significant issues with practicality, proportionality and safety. The FBU argues that resident safety is paramount, so there is a greater safety issue in declining to implement PEEPs. As for proportionality, the Inquiry has found the introduction of PEEPs to be a proportionate strategy, and the FBU agrees. “Some reasons given for the refusal seem poorly evidenced, for example stating that if a PEEP advised the purchase of an evacuation chair, there would be an “impact on the good relations between disabled residents and non-disabled residents if disproportionate costs were passed on to the latter. Building owners should carry the costs.” “The government’s decision is a negative, backward step, and the FBU stands with disability campaigners, the Grenfell campaign groups and the LGA in asking you to reconsider.” 15 out of 37 disabled Grenfell Tower residents lost their lives in the fire. The union represents the vast majority of the hundreds of firefighters and fire control staff who were involved in the Grenfell response.For more information, interviews or further comment please contact Ben Duncan-Duggal on ben.duncan-duggal@fbu.org.uk or 07825635224 Building Design and Construction Magazine | The Home of Construction & Property News

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Immediate evacuation orders for Housing association estate over building safety fears

One of London’s largest housing associations is to undertake a comprehensive safety review across a six-block residential development following expert advice that the construction of the buildings may be putting around 1,000 residents at risk. Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) asked all residents living in the Paragon Estate to leave immediately in order to protect their health and safety while further investigative work is undertaken. NHG said that it would ensure that all residents living in the Paragon Estate were able to access safe alternative accommodation this week. It will also work with residents to find a longer-term solution to their housing needs where necessary. The further investigations will establish the full extent of the structural and fire safety issues that have been uncovered at the development and identify next steps. Earlier building performance issues, together with fire safety issues related to the cladding and the subsequent new government guidance since the fire at Grenfell Tower, triggered a series of safety checks at Paragon, undertaken by technical consultants, which have each revealed further problems with this development. Notting Hill Genesis said the action it has taken to address these risks as they have arisen, include establishing waking watches and temporary alarms, and introducing simultaneous evacuation procedures, but the latest advice has prompted the group to act in order to protect its residents. Kate Davies, group chief executive of Notting Hill Genesis, said: “First, I want to say how sorry we are to residents that we have had to take this action and disrupt their lives. But, as a not-for-profit housing association, our priority is to provide safe, affordable housing. We always ensure the wellbeing of our residents, so while we are incredibly disappointed to have to make this decision, we believe that we have no choice but to ask people to leave their homes on the Paragon estate. “I understand that Paragon residents may feel angry or alarmed by this news, as they have every right to be. This is a very distressing time and we are genuinely sorry for the huge amount of disruption and uncertainty that this situation will cause. “This is a complex situation and we don’t yet have all the answers. We are working to uncover the full extent of the issues at Paragon so that we can provide residents with clarity about timescales, next steps and options as quickly as possible. “We are doing all we can to support people who live in Paragon through this difficult situation. We have identified safe accommodation for everyone to move into this week and are providing financial as well as mental health and wellbeing support to help them do that. We are also giving everyone a dedicated caseworker to discuss their specific needs both now and for the longer-term where necessary.” Paragon is a development of six blocks containing a total of 1,059 homes in Brentford, Hounslow. It was developed by Berkeley First, part of The Berkeley Group plc. The estate was owned initially by the former Presentation Housing Association, which became part of Notting Hill Housing – now Notting Hill Genesis – in 2009. Notting Hill Housing group, which became part of Notting Hill Genesis group in 2018, acquired Paragon in 2009. The six blocks consist of the following: Block A – a five-storey building consisting of 41 units of intermediate market rent. Block B – three interconnected buildings of four, five and nine storeys with 107 shared ownership leasehold units and 72 intermediate rent. Blocks C, D, E and F – 17, 12, 12 and five-storeys respectively, hold a combined 839 units of student accommodation which is occupied by students nominated by the University of West London. There is no suggestion that any other buildings in the Notting Hill Genesis portfolio will require a similar approach to the one being taken at Paragon. Buildings are being investigated and prioritised based on factors such as height, external materials used and evacuation procedure, and residents informed if further investigation or remedial work is required. Where necessary, and in consultation with fire safety assessors, interim safety measures such as simultaneous evacuation procedures, supported by 24-hour patrols and temporary alarms are in place.

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IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis’ comment on the draft Building Safety Bill

IWFM welcomes the draft Building Safety Bill and hopes this development will provide some comfort to those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. We believe the new statutory role of Building Safety Manager (BSM) is key to avoiding any repeat of such a tragedy and we are pleased to continue to help with developing the competence framework for the role. The importance of the BSM in ensuring the safety of buildings and the people occupying them cannot be understated. Where previously there often was a lack of both clarity on who was responsible for building safety and competence to ensure that safety, a BSM with oversight should ensure that all of the updated safety requirements are met, residents have a clear point of contact, and lives are protected. We urge facilities managers to engage with the Bill and provide feedback to us via: policy@iwfm.org.uk. Professionals in FM will be at the front-line of this Bill’s implementation, being those most likely to be assigned or hired to the BSM role; it is therefore critical that our profession is knowledgeable of the contents and its implications for the future of building and people safety. We must never face a repeat of that tragic night and, while there is still work to do, we are much closer to that goal with this draft Bill. Further information: The BSM can be an individual or organisation whose principal role is to support the Accountable Person in the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in the building. In either circumstance, the individual or a nominated individual must have the competence (or skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours) to carry out the statutory functions. The skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours are not detailed in the draft Building Safety Bill, which is a high level Bill; instead, the detail of the competences will be outlined in future statutory guidance and a Publicly Available Specification.

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BUREAU VERITAS REITERATES IMPORTANCE OF BEST PRACTICE APPROACH TO CONSTRUCTION AMIDST GRENFELL TOWER FIRE SAFETY LEAK

With furore building around the initial findings of the BRE report into the Grenfell Tower fire leaked to the London Evening Standard, Bureau Veritas has reiterated the critical importance of specification, construction methods and adherence to building standards in ensuring buildings are constructed correctly and appropriately going forward. The reported findings of the leaked interim document focused on five potentially significant breaches of building regulations that contributed to the spread of fire at Grenfell Tower, specifically in relation to a refurbishment carried out between 2014-16. Areas of focus included the building cladding and insulation, as well as the design and installation of the windows and cavity barriers. Andy Lowe, director of building control at Bureau Veritas, comments: “Firstly, it’s important that we wait for the full BRE report to be published to understand the real implications of the findings of the investigation. It’s also crucial that these findings are reviewed in conjunction with the ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ by Dame Judith Hackitt and alongside any changes to Government legislation that may arise as a result. “However, it’s always imperative to reiterate just how important it is to construct buildings correctly in accordance with building regulations, including at the specification stage to ensure that materials selected are appropriate and suitable for their intended use. This includes adequate inspection at every stage of the process to not only assess the suitability of the materials used but also that installation has been done correctly. “Benchmarking of key areas and photography of critical components is also recommended as best practise, along with thorough documentation to form part of a fire safety dossier that can be passed on to the fire risk assessor – this should also be made available to the relevant tenants association if applicable. “Any further alteration works should be reviewed against the original strategy for the building and obviously should still comply fully with safety requirements. Only with all these measures in place can we be satisfied that a building has been constructed and maintained to the highest standards. “It is our understanding and continued hope that when both the full BRE findings and the Hackitt Review are published that this approach to best practice is strengthened, to ensure long-term compliance with these vital aspects of fire safety.” Bureau Veritas is a leading testing, inspection and certification company with a vast experience of the building control sector. Bureau Veritas Building Control UK combines technical expertise and market-leading systems with unrivalled industry experience to deliver building control services to some of the biggest names in construction. Through effective teamwork, a consistent approach and commitment to excellence, Bureau Veritas’ solutions go beyond just compliance – they can help to reduce costs and manage risk throughout the building lifecycle, from design stages through to site inspections and final certification – whilst giving designers confidence that the project will comply with Building Regulations and all relevant legislation.   For further information, call 0345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk

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Grenfell Raises Compulsory Sprinkler Installation Discussion

Tragedies like the Grenfell Tower Fire are horrendous, and with the enquiry into the causes and events it seems to be too little too late for those who lost everything that lessons and changes will be made. However, it is thought that one of the issues that will be discussed yet again as part of this enquiry will be the mandatory installation of sprinklers in residential accommodation. In Scotland, sprinklers are required by regulation in all high rise residential buildings, this is any building over 18m in height which equates to between 6 and 7 storeys. Despite this, the Scottish Government has launched a further consultation that will explore fire and building safety in order to ensure the protection of all homes, both new-build, privately or socially rented or owner occupied. Research has shown that approximately three quarters of all fire-related death occur in the home, and the horrendous incident in West London took place at a time where that had been an increase in the numbers of fire-related deaths, by 21% between 2014 and 2015. With a lot of discussion as to why this number of deaths has increased, with suggestions such as an ageing population and possible building budget cuts, one fact in relation to this figure is that fire response times are increasing as well, particularly in the largest cities around the UK. It is thought that social housing tenants are at a greater risk from fire because a large number of group includes an ageing population. It has been found that the majority of deaths from fire occur among those who are over the age of 65, with these people finding evacuating the building more difficult. It is thought that those with a disability are vulnerable for the same reason. In 2005 it was stated by the UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government that they had research to suggest that installing sprinklers in new homes would not be cost effective, but it would be reasonable to provide them in a building such as a block of flats that stood at more than 30 meters in height as well as in some care homes. Hopefully, following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the Government will decide that 1% of the total build cost is in fact cost-effective to make sure such a horrid incident doesn’t happen again.

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