Burning issue

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell looks at some of the issues emerging from the Grenfell Tower inquiry and associated investigations.

Fire doors from five suppliers have now been identified as failing to meet requisite fire performance standard following an investigation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

MHCLG quite rightly makes the point that this highlights broader potential failings within the industry.

MHCLG began investigating the fire door industry after it was found that a glazed, composite fire door from Grenfell Tower manufactured by Manse Masterdor failed a 30-minute fire resistance test after approximately 15 minutes. Issues were subsequently identified with doors produced by Masterdor (the successor business to Manse Masterdor).

Investigations continued and at the end of July doors from three additional manufacturers failed fire resistance testing when tested on both sides.

The products which have failed government tests to date were glazed and unglazed doors supplied by Manse Masterdor and Masterdor, and glazed composite doors supplied by Specialist Building Products (trading as Permadoor), Solar Windows, and Birtley Group (trading as Bowater by Birtley).

Meanwhile, the Grenfell inquiry is now in recess. The combustibility of the cladding panels has probably come under the most scrutiny, with product suppliers facing the inquiry; while the insulation manufacturer Celotex has said little so far (according to reports), cladding panel supplier Arconic said its panels were “at most a contributing factor” to the fire, and that no-one would have died if the PVCU windows had been built with greater fire protection, despite a consultant to the inquiry saying that the panels were the primary cause of fire spread.

Despite being told by the counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett QC, not to “indulge in a merry-go-round of buck-passing”, Arconic said it was also up to purchasers to decide if its panels could be “safely and appropriately used”.

The inquiry is approximately half-way through phase one, which is focusing on the factual narrative of the events of the night of June 14, 2017. This includes: the existing fire safety and prevention measures at Grenfell Tower; where and how the fire started; the development of the fire and smoke; how the fire and smoke spread from its original seat to other parts of the building; the chain of events before the decision was made that there was no further saveable life in the building; and the evacuation of residents.

Phase 2 will take a closer look at the building’s construction and modification.

The next hearing is on September 3.