Higher Scottish standards and fire safety audits twice as often as in England make a new Grenfell here very unlikely

Kieren Andrews of the Times thinks he has something on Scotland and that SNP Government but he hasn’t. He writes today:

Scotland is the only part of Britain that has failed to ban combustible materials from high-risk buildings after the Grenfell Tower fire. Safety experts and insurers have urged the Scottish government to follow England and Wales and close a loophole that enables hazardous materials to be used in the construction of tower blocks and domestic properties. SNP ministers have also been criticised for failing to replicate a fund set up by Westminster to remove potentially dangerous cladding and insulation from high-rise buildings. Jim Glockling, of the Fire Protection Association, the UK’s fire safety body, said the failure to legislate undermined efforts to make buildings safe.

I hesitate a little here because of my lack of expertise but expert readers have been on this in previous posts and I hope they will return to correct me where necessary.

The Chimney Effect

This cannot happen in Scotland

As I understand it, it is not so much the flammability of the material used as the construction of the external cladding to deny the spread of fire via a chimney effect.

Reader Gordon Darge wrote for us in January 2020:

As a chartered architect in Scotland for 40 years I can confirm that the Building Regulations Technical Standards Scotland have for two decades required cavity fire barriers

2.4 Cavities
Mandatory Standard
Standard 2.4
Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, the spread of fire and smoke within cavities in its structure and fabric is inhibited.

This includes for example, around the head, jambs and sill of an external door or window opening, at all floor levels and building corners etc. to prevent the spread of fire in building cavities. This would have prevented the spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower.

This is difficult and expensive to achieve and I can only guess that in England they did not follow the Scottish model because Westminster and the Tories were led by the vested interests of big business, property developers and large construction firms.

For anyone wanting more info see:


https://www.gov.scot/publications/building-standards-technical-handbook-2019-domestic/2-fire/2-4-cavities/

And in December 2019, we were able to report:

In a parliamentary question at Holyrood on Monday, David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour) asked the Scottish Government what plans it has to ban combustible materials on the outside of high-rise or high-risk buildings.

The answer was reassuring contrast to the lack of comparable action in England:

From 1 May 2005, Scottish building regulations have required cladding on domestic buildings with any storey over 18 metres to be non-combustible or to pass a large-scale fire test (BS 8414 and BR 135).

The Scottish Government have just completed a review of building regulations. Advice from the national and international panel of experts was that there was no need to change mandatory standard 2.7 that requires fire spread on the external walls of a building to be inhibited. Guidance that came into force on 1 October embraces a range of measures to improve fire safety which will make Scotland’s high-rise buildings even safer. These include:

• Further restricting the use of combustible materials on taller buildings, applying provisions that previously applied to buildings over 18 metres to all buildings over 11 metres to align with fire-fighting from the ground;

• Tighter controls over the combustibility of cladding systems on hospitals, residential care buildings, entertainment and assembly buildings regardless of building height;

• Introducing evacuation sound alerts, floor and dwelling indicator signs and two escape stairs in all new high-rise domestic buildings.

We have also made a commitment to introduce a mandatory requirement to install sprinkler systems in all new build flats, certain multi-occupancy dwellings and social housing from 2021.

And before that:

  1. From the Scottish Government news website in February 2019:

‘New rules to reduce deaths in household fires have been announced today, with improved standards introduced for fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.  The improved standards will mean every home in the country must have a smoke alarm fitted in the living room or lounge, and in circulation spaces such as hallways and landings. The changes also mean every kitchen must have a heat alarm, and the alarms will have to be interlinked so they can be heard throughout the property. There must also be a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances. The new rules mean the standard which currently applies to private rented property and newbuilds is being extended to all homes in Scotland. The regulations come after a consultation carried out following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017.’

https://news.gov.scot/news/new-fire-safety-standards-for-scottish-homes

  1. From BBC UK News in December 2018:

‘Fire safety checks across England have fallen by 42% over the last seven years, according to the new watchdog for fire and rescue services. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services says brigades do a good job in emergencies, but amid cuts have reduced “vital” prevention work. The watchdog said the number of audits carried out by firefighters dropped from 84,575 in 2010-11 to 49,423 in 2017-18.’

  1. From the Scottish Government, published in August 2018:

‘The number of fire safety audits carried out in 2015/16 was 9,829. Most of the premises audited by the SFRS have relatively adequate fire safety measures and are categorised as ‘broadly compliant’ (9,180 audits: 93%). While 79% (7,779 audits) of the premises audited have average or low levels of relative risk.’

In Scotland 2015/16, 9 827 safety audits were carried out. England has 10 times the population and so, all things being equal, might have been expected to have seen 98 270 fire safety audits. However, in 2017/18, England saw only 49 423 fire safety audits, just over half the number. Fire safety audits in Scotland are thus almost twice as common, per head of population, in Scotland as in England.

Why? Cost-cutting Tory local authorities? Cost-cutting Tory central government?

  1. Two earlier reports perhaps still of interest here:

‘Stricter [fire] safety rules leave Scotland out of danger’ The English media spot the difference. Did BBC Scotland?

‘High rise fires in Scotland at lowest level in eight years’

17 thoughts on “Higher Scottish standards and fire safety audits twice as often as in England make a new Grenfell here very unlikely

  1. If my memory is correct, the type of cladding used at Grenfell was not specified to be used above 18 metres of height. Yet it was, and to save a few thousand pounds.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. While you are correct on the cavity regulations*, there is still a concern on developments that include elements of cladding that are combustible.

    If built correctly, this means a risk exists but not one analogous to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.

    Within Scottish regulations and legal frameworks there is no easy solution for the removal of combustible parts of cladding currently.

    My understanding is that the Scottish Government was about to lead cross-partner work to create a solution (which avoids throwing five or six figure sums at homeowners I imagine), but this has been delayed by the coronavirus situation.

    Was there a ScotGov response in the Times article?

    *if you want to see this in action, look at refurbished multis in and around Glasgow that had a rendered added, not cladding

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Times article is doing just that…and the Britnats would not mind if an opportunity to really lay into the Scottish government presented itself, even if it meant people might die.

      The Britnats are desperate to find a way to bring down Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, and so any hypothetical or potential tragedy will be used, ‘tempting providence’.

      To discuss an important issue does not mean it is wished for, in most peoples’ minds, but it might well do in some.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Survivor groups have reacted with anger after a leaked draft of a report into the Grenfell Tower fire revealed the blaze would have had little opportunity to spread beyond the flat it started in, had the building not been renovated with combustible material.

    The 210-page draft report, which was prepared as part of the Metropolitan Police investigation, concludes that the fire would not have spread beyond the fourth floor flat where it originated if the original facade of the building had not been re-clad.”

    https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/grenfell-leaked-report-reveals-gross-negligence/

    Like

      1. I see my first link goes nowhere. This might work.

        The Grenfell Tower Fire A crime caused by profit and deregulation.

        It is a link to a long piece by the FBU in London defending the attending brigade against criticisms made by the Chairman of the Grenfell inquiry.

        The FBU explores in depth the whittling away of the regulations by successive governments, including that of Blair, and Johnson’s closing of fire stations and cutting staff.

        It was a choice, however, of Kensington Council to override safety to save a little money that was central. There are many aspects to the dismal story. Some can be found here.

        https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/grenfell-the-paper-trail-51907

        Like

      2. Yes, John, the chimney effect.

        I have been trying without success to find a link that works to the FBU piece. I am not sure if this works.

        https://www.fia.uk.com/news/deregulation-responsible-for-grenfell-claims-fbu-report.html

        “A pamphlet from the Fire Brigades Union which was launched on Monday at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference, claims that government bears ultimate responsibility for the Grenfell Tower fire, and that deregulation by consecutive administrations led to the tragedy.

        The Grenfell Tower Fire: A crime caused by profit and deregulation concludes that:

        Central government has failed to regulate high-rise residential buildings properly for fire safety.
        The expertise of firefighters “has mostly been substituted with management consultants, industry lobbyists and chief fire officers. These agents have operated within a political climate that has emphasised the need for reducing regulation.”
        Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The terrible loss of life at Grenfell Tower was ultimately caused by political decisions made at the highest level. For at least 40 years, policies relating to housing, local government, the fire and rescue service, research and other areas have been driven by the agenda of cuts, deregulation and privatisation.”

        “A deep-seated culture of complacency has developed regarding fire policy and fire safety and central government bears ultimate responsibility.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The chimney effect played a critical part in spreading the fire at Grenfell.
        As Gordon Darge (40 Yr chartered Architect) “The Building Regulations Technical Standards Scotland have fir 2 decades required Cavity Fire Barriers”

        2.4 Cavities
        Mandatory Standard
        Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that . . . . . . Tge soread of fire & smoke within cavities in its structure & fabric is inhibited

        Gordon goes on to say “This sould have prevented the spread of fire at Grenfell Tower”

        Says it all for me .

        When Grenfell tower was clad were Cavity Fire Barriers required by Building Regulations.
        Have to assume they weren’t otherwise someone would surely be in jail by now.
        So is the requirement for cavity barriers a critical difference between Building Regs. North and South of the border?
        ,

        Like

  4. While there maybe more work needed to totaly safeguard high rise flats it was long established that with our more rigid Planning and extensve Building regulations the risk of a fire on that scale and verocity was considered minimal so it is reprehensible for this reporter (I hesitate to call him a journalist from his lies in the Courier) that is going to cause unnecessary fear amongst many elderly people who live there.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The Scottish government says this .

    https://www.gov.scot/publications/grenfell-responding-in-scotland/

    “Can the same type of cladding found on Grenfell be used in domestic tower blocks in Scotland.
    No, Building Standards systems and regulations for high rise (over 18m) domestic properties in Scotland means the type of product used on Grenfell Tower should not be used in the cladding systems.

    What do Scottish building regulations say about the use of cladding on high rise domestic tower blocks?
    Since 2005 Scottish building regulations have stated that cladding and insulation on high rise domestic buildings should either be made of non-combustible materials or the whole cladding system has been the subject of a stringent fire test. From 2005 these regulations applied to new high rise domestic buildings or re-cladding work to existing high rise domestic buildings….

    ….How do Scottish regulations on domestic tower blocks differ from those in England?
    In essence the building regulations for cladding systems for domestic tower blocks are similar between Scotland and England. Both sets of regulations require the cladding to either be formed of non-combustible material or meet stringent fire testing. Guidance to the Building Standards system in Scotland does not recognised the use of “comparative desk top studies” to assess the fire performance of the cladding system.

    https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/consultation-response-demands-end-of-desktop-studies-for-fire-safety

    I would say that it is the fact that the “type of product” used in Grenfell can be used to clad buildings below 18 metres is what Andrews is getting at. I haven’t read his paywall piece.

    Like

  6. Yet in England not enough is being done. Report this Kieran Andrews?

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-cladding-removal-tower-blocks-time-scale-government-response-a9012941.html

    “Thousands of people will be stuck living in potentially deadly tower blocks until 2030 because of the “glacial” pace at which the government is removing highly flammable materials in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, new analysis suggests.

    Ministers are set to miss their target by almost a decade after efforts to remove the deadly materials appeared to stall.

    Currently an average of just 4.75 residential blocks a month are having the flammable material removed, out of a total of 334 that were found to contain it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. And, remember that in the interim report on Grenfell published over a year ago, the media, including the self righteous Guardian, pounced on one of the findings dealing with the response of the London Fire Brigade, and exaggerated this, out of context, to imply that lives would have been saved, had the London Fire Brigade responded differently.

    Thus, an idea was placed in the minds of some that, it was not the cladding or the management of the flats.

    This piece in the Times is playing on the fact that many people are unaware of the differences between the planning regimes in Scotland and England.

    Perhaps the writer is demanding changes which are not appropriate for the circumstances. However, if he gets some people saying, “You cannot be too careful”, then the media can start a spurious campaign, which, they hope will lead to hem being able to headline: Scottish Government U turn.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In January 2080? Hmm, I must be in a time loop.

    Anyway, well done to Angus B MacNeil (SNP MP) who managed to get a pile of MPs (cross party) together to hear Stephanie Kelton talk about her book The Deficit Myth. Stephanie has been making MMT (the economics behind using fiat currency) accessible to everybody – any of her presentations are good, but I haven’t read the book (reviews of it are good):

    https://mobile.twitter.com/AngusMacNeilSNP/status/1280580368219938816

    (I can’t quite make out from the pictures who all attended) MPs actually learning how economics works can only be a good thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Kieran Andrews is talking nonsense to divert attention from Tory culpability at local and national level in London.
    Gordon Darge nailed not only the explanation for Scotland, but the cause of the Grenfell problem with “the Tories were led by the vested interests of big business, property developers and large construction firms”

    In Scotland you cannot circumvent Building Control or the Fire Authorities either at the design phase or during the construction phase, that was not the case at Grenfell… Hands off, minimal bureaucracy, fast-track, etc.. If I recall correctly the cladding installer certified his own work.

    The bitter twist of fate was, thanks to Johnson’s slimming down and defunding of LFB, they arrived on scene to find an unusable riser while the building went up like a roman candle.
    Tragic, made in London, made by Tories.

    Like

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