Following the tragic fatal fire in Grenfell House, North Kensington, London, tremendous concern has arisen regarding cladding to high rise social housing and other buildings.
The Institution of Fire Engineers have published guidance as an interim measure until the current investigations are complete.
The fire service ladders on front line appliances will reach the 4th floor of buildings under normal circumstances and the 8th floor if hydraulic platforms or turntable ladders are in attendance.
Approved Document ”B4” in England and Wales and the Technical Guidance Document in Scotland give good guidance on controlling the combustibility and surface spread of flame on external faces of building. Unfortunately many new or refurbished buildings have slipped through this net with catastrophic consequences.
A lot of promises of sprinklers in social housing premises have been made for the future. Sprinklers are disruptive and expensive to retro-fit in existing buildings, two good water supplies will be needed and additional fire engineering will be required for high rise buildings that are over 45 metres tall. Do we fit drenchers on the outside of existing buildings that the fire service can charge with water like a dry riser is charged? Again problems will arise with this solution once you get above 45 metres in height.
Should high rise buildings only have a single central staircase? Fire doors have be recommended in flats and maisonettes in British Standards since 1974. When tenants buy their dwelling and change entrance fire doors to non-fire doors it puts other residents at risk and is a constant problem for social housing organisations to control.
We are a long way from answers to this problem and the Institution of Fire Engineers have given a general statement which can be found on: