‘Green’ and ‘eco’ concerns may have been put before fire safety worries during the refurbishment of the West London tower that was engulfed in flames this week.The cladding, which was erected around the concrete block’s exterior as part of a £8.7 million refit last year, is suspected by experts to have helped the flames spread so quickly.
The panels were intended to enhance the appearance of the building as well as improve its insulation and reduce the tower’s “carbon footprint”. Despite fire safety concerns, ‘green’ concerns could have been prioritised, The Telegraph reports.
It is estimated that thousands of buildings across the UK have been fitted with similar cladding, and the prime minister today announced a full public inquiry into the disaster.
According to the BBC, the cladding had a plastic core and was similar to that used on high-rise buildings in France, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia that have also been struck by rapidly spreading fires.
Experts said the cladding had acted like a “chimney”, allowing flames to spread upwards through gaps between the cladding and concrete walls.
Reg Kerr-Bell, the former chairman of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which manages the building, said he stood down several years ago over safety concerns.
Just two days before the blaze, he had spoken to a former colleague about their fears. He told The Telegraph: “This is a scandal. This is one of the biggest scandals in the country – and it could have been avoided…
“We felt there was a disaster waiting to happen and we were going to have a meeting with the MP so that we could put these concerns to them.”
Mike Penning, a former fire minister, called for an urgent review into the use of the insulation material.
He said: “There has to be an urgent review into the use of cladding. We need to expedite this as far as possible – this cladding is used extensively in the UK and abroad.”
So far, 17 people have been announced dead and the number is expected to rise as crews picked their way through the burnt out shell of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower that was home to around 600 people.
Rydon, the firm responsible for the refit, said the project “met all required building regulations”.