Was cladding to blame for rapid spread of fire? Cheap ‘Polystyrene-type’ surround added to ‘improve view from neigbouring luxury flats’ may have helped spread devastating blaze after it ‘went up like a matchstick’.
Cut price cladding added to tower blocks built in the 1970s could be to blame for the rapid spread of a fire which claimed the lives of at least 12 people.
New plastic rain-proof cladding was installed at Grenfell Tower in White City, London, in May 2016 as part of a £10million refurbishment – but ‘went up like a match’ and helped the fire spread quickly from the fourth to 27th floor.
Planning documents reveal the cladding was also added so that the tower would be more visually pleasing when seen from the nearby luxury flats.
Now, serious questions have been raised for the company behind the massive renovation project – on the same day it emerged the boss behind the refurbishment does not know what the cladding is made from.
Investigations are now being urgently launched into tower blocks with similar cladding across the UK, which are now expected to undergo rigorous testing in a bid to prevent the tragic tower block fire from happening again.
The building was clad with polyester powder-coated (PPC) aluminium rain-screen panels, according to the Guardian.
Some have described it as ‘Polystyrene-type’ cladding.
According to Reynobond’s website, the manufacturer of the panels, they come in two variants.
A planning document released by the council in 2014 said: ‘Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east.
‘The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.’
The document also makes repeated reference to the ‘appearance of the area’.
One has a polyethylene core, which is a type of plastic, and another a version with a fire retardant mineral has a higher resistance to fire.
The cladding at Grenfell tower could be seen burning and melting, causing additional speculation ]it was not made of fire resistant material.
But the main issue is that the process of applying the rain-proof frontage can create a 25mm-30mm cavity between the cladding and the insulation behind it.
Arnold Tarling, chartered surveyor and fire expert with property firm Hindwoods, said this can have the effect of creating a ‘wind tunnel and also traps any burning material between the rain cladding and the building’.