Official reviews may be underway and will run their courses, but ten months on from the tragedy of Grenfell and the anniversary looming on 14 June, the UK remains no closer to a safer system of fire safety regulation and little has been done to prevent another fire. This situation is not one which can wait for outcomes. The Government must act and act now to protect the public and especially those most vulnerable in society. The Government must lead from the front.
Deep-rooted concerns have prompted an open letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May from MIMA with a group of united leading fire safety experts and advocates urging the government to implement three important regulatory changes with immediate effect that will significantly improve fire safety for high-rise and high-risk buildings, such as schools, hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing and residential blocks.
These three common-sense measures will help protect people’s lives and the buildings in which they live, work, learn, and recover. The fire safety experts urge the government to require immediately that:
- Only non-combustible cladding and insulation be installed;
- They be fitted with sprinklers; and,
- All new buildings of these types have alternative escape routes.
Alongside MIMA, signatories include prominent architect, television presenter, lecturer and writer, George Clarke; European Fire Sprinkler Network (EFSN); Jane Duncan, Chair, RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety and former President of the RIBA; Mineral Wool Manufacturers Association (MIMA); Ronnie King OBE, Honorary Administrative Secretary and Principal Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group and former Chief Fire Officer; British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA); Professor Richard Hull and Professor Anna Stec from the University of Central Lancashire; Professor Anne Power from the London School of Economics; and Sam Webb, Architect and RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety member.
The signatories acknowledge official reviews are underway, but these steps would substantially reduce the risk still facing many buildings in the UK, and reassure the many families and individuals living and working in high risk buildings across the country.
George Clarke personally supports this approach and has commented: “The rules for how we build safe homes, offices, schools and hospitals have for many years been far too open to interpretation. This has led to poor design decisions that have compromised fire safety and put lives at risk. What we are arguing for could be implemented tomorrow, would be extremely effective in making buildings safer, and help prevent a tragedy such as Grenfell ever happening again.”
Professor Richard Hull, Professor of Chemistry and Fire Science at University of Central Lancashire said: “Grenfell has left no doubt about the dangers of combustible facades on tall buildings. The recent ABI report shows the problems with the current testing regime. Until they are resolved, we cannot endanger more people by allowing combustible materials to be put on the outside of high rise and high risk buildings.”
Alan Brinson, Executive Director, European Fire Sprinkler Network said: “Sprinklers are highly effective fire safety systems. They are not expensive and have been fitted in many existing buildings. The public recognises all this and supports their wider use. Wales already requires sprinklers in all new housing and in Scotland there is a proposal to require them in more buildings. All eyes are now on England.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) has more specifically come out in support of using non-combustible cladding and insulation only saying “The LGA strongly supports the view that only non-combustible materials should be used in cladding systems on these buildings”.
MIMA has pressed for years in support of using non-combustible cladding and insulation that can inhibit the spread of fire and won’t emit any significant amounts of toxic smoke. Non-combustible materials can help contain a fire, making the difference between a fire in a building and a building on fire. The Government’s review and inquiry will run their courses but will take significant time so there is every reason to make these crucial and logical changes straightaway to ensure that buildings are being constructed in a safe manner.
This is not a “do nothing” approach whilst we await the outcomes of the Hackitt Review. We need very real and practical action in the short to medium term and Government must lead this action from the front.
Sarah Kostense-Winterton is Executive Director of MIMA, the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association, the industry trade body for non-combustible, breathable insulation which provides an authoritative source of independent information and advice on glass and stone wool insulation.
MIMA represents four of the leading insulation companies in the UK – Isover Saint-Gobain, Knauf Insulation, ROCKWOOL and Superglass.
For further details of the guidance, please visit MIMA’s website at http://mima.info/info-centre/news/ or contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org