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24-level building tower fire in West London

24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
Link

Looks like the building is fully engulfed. Residents trapped in the upper levels.

40 engine and 200 firefighter response.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Terrible fire. We can only hope that most of the people got out.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
hokie66:

This is not good. Dubai, revisited, again!

Quote (Resident survivor)

I had to really pull myself out to look down the window, from the 17th floor, and I see the fire blazing, and coming up really fast, because of the cladding — the cladding was really flammable, and it just caught up like a matchstick.

And this:

Quote (Kensington and Chelsea Council)

According to Kensington and Chelsea Council, the tower block contains 120 flats and is 24 storeys high. It is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the council and had undergone a two-year, £10m refurbishment that was completed last year. The work included new exterior cladding and a communal heating system.







RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
Sorry, I was typing my 05:56 post when you posted your 05:50 post. We are both thinking along similar lines.

I noticed from a recent AU press release there are an estimated "2500 high-rise buildings in Sydney could contain the same type of non-compliant and ­deadly cladding".

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It is uncertain from reports so far if the cladding is the same as in the UAE fires, and the one in Melbourne. And yes, Australia has a big problem with this Chinese cladding. Don't know about the US.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Flammable cladding was my first thought too - some of the videos show what appear to be continuous tongues of flame tracking across several stories eternally - I'll be very interested to see what is confirmed in due course.

http://julianh72.blogspot.com

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I never expected to see a Wikipedia page updated more quickly than a news outlet page, nor to be so fact-filled in such a short period of time. This thing was created/filled out in <<24 hours.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This is horrible.

Can someone enlighten me and fire risks & cladding?
Specifically, polystyrol cladding: Codes over here (Germany) call for firebreaks (from rockwool) around openings or a barrier around the building every two floors. Is this actually sufficient (where there fires that jumped such a barrier?)

Accodring to one (manufactuerers!) sheet, there's flame retardant polysyrol that extinguishes on it's own without additional, burning, fuel. So flame retardant polystyrol + no use of wood or other flammable material should provide a safe cladding, or are there other complications?

Does anyone know what UK codes call for in cladding re. fire safety?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (reuters.com)

A 8.7 million pound ($11 million) refurbishment of the block was carried out by construction company Rydon and completed in July 2016. It included new external cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall facades, according to Rydon's website.

A new communal heating system and a bespoke smoke extraction and ventilation system were also installed.

Rydon said it was shocked to hear of the devastating fire and its immediate thoughts were with those affected.

The company said its refurbishment of the building met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards.

One of the videos had a resident say there was no central alarm system. I'm not from the UK but do the fire regulations really not require that?!

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The article in linked in the first post quotes one resident: "The whole landing was thick with smoke. The smoke alarms weren't going off but the way it spread so quickly from the fourth floor, all the way up to the 23rd floor was scary"

and another:
"He said he was alerted to the fire not by fire alarms but by people on the street below, shouting "don't jump, don't jump"."

Possible there was an alarm, but not working?



RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Just the number of buildings outside the USA that do not have outward opening doors in all escape routes is absolutely astonishing to me. First principle of USA fire protection for about 100 years now. I never did check the cladding for inflammability, but was very proud that it was I whom was responsible for Petrofac changing their escape door configuration in their Sharjah headquarters building to open in the outward direction.

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Some fire retardants are surficial and deteriorate over time. Had a sample for a membrane structure proposed for an outdoor theatre in Winnipeg, that was 'supposedly' fireproof... used to smoke at the time and cut off a strip and held it in my fingers and put my lighter to it... burned like nitrocellulose... good thing it was a tile floor and not carpet when I dropped it.

Government was involved, so not likely that anyone will be charged with criminal negligence causing death...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from the BBC, "Twelve people have died in a west London tower block fire and the number of deaths are expected to rise, police have said."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Conditions matter a great deal as to what limits flammability and flame resistance. I would expect that out-gassing of flammable components of the cladding and the self-reinforcing convection from the vertical orientation allowed the reaction to outpace any retardant. Once it spreads to the interiors, there is a continuous ignition source.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

WOW 2!

Looks like a match going up in flame.

Any word yet as to what started the fire at the 4th story?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
ACM supplier/installer (NOT panel manufacturer) was HARLEY FACADES:

Link



Statement Link

Quote (STATEMENT FROM HARLEY FACADES LTD dated June 14, 2017)


Harley Facades Limited completed the refurbishment work to Grenfell Tower. This included the installation of exterior cladding.

The Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels are a commonly used product in the refurbishment industry. Harley Facades Limited do not manufacture these panels.

Commenting on the fire, Ray Bailey, Managing Director at Harley Facades Limited said:

“This is an incredibly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the residents and their families who have suffered such a personal loss. We will fully support and cooperate with the investigations into this fire. There will be many questions about this whole incident and so you will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for us to comment or for others to speculate on any aspect of fire or it causes in advance of these inquiries. At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Latest news ,
None of the residents on the top 3 floors survived. http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/816842/fire-londo...
Looking at this on TV late last night, it looked as though there were no sprinklers in the building , or they had been overwhelmed. An eye witness Mr. Samuels added flames cascaded up the newly refurbished cladding on the outside of the building
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

One report says the fire started as an electrical fire, a refrigerator. I had one experience with that sort of fire. The icemaker in our fridge started to smoke and smolder. No great damage done. Just had to repaint the kitchen. No icemakers in our house since that happened.

There must be a lot of companies who have gotten into manufacturing these aluminum faced cladding panels, so you can't go by brand names. That being said, the three brand names which have been mentioned in Australia are Alucobond, Alucobest, and Alubond. The similarity of these brands may be deliberately chosen to confuse. The Chinese made product which is reported to have contributed to the fires in the UAE and Melbourne is Alucobest.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Aluminum, huh?

Interesting thought here, and you mix this with a polymer?

Chemical composition of thermite
The process employs an exothermic reaction of a thermite composition to heat the metal, and requires no external source of heat or current. The chemical reaction that produces the heat is an aluminothermic reaction between aluminium powder and a metal oxide.

What are they thinking?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I don't think there is any aluminum powder in the products. Aluminum sheet as the external face, with various substrates, depending on the manufacturer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I used to make paneling from this type of product Reynobond and Lucabond Both of these had fire retardant mixed into the core and would not support combustion.
I understand that there are some knock off companies that make this product with just a polyethylene core and no fire retardant.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

"Reynobond and Lucabond"

Bonded Reynolds Aluminum and Lucite?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Msquared48,
Reynobond, ACM panels made by Reynolds Aluminum co.
Somehow an A fell off when I was typing this , that should be Alucabond . they were the originators of this kind of ACM panel, Reynolds came in later.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I think it is Alucobond, made by a company called 3AComposite, which is a Swiss company, I believe. They make the product with both a polyethylene core and a fireproof core, so you would have to be careful to get the right one. I think the polyethylene core product is intended only for low rise construction.

Edit: I didn't mean to imply that Alucobond is the product on the building in London. Was just correcting the spelling of berkshire's post.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

"At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

Baghdad Bob is back.

I wonder what amplification there is by putting an IR reflector in close proximity to fuel.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
The typical residential floor has (had!) 4 x 2-bedroom apartments and 2 x 1-bedroom apartments for a total of 120 units over 20 floors.

One exit fire-stair only that served the residential floors.



A new exit stair was added recently to serve L1 through L4 community-type common areas.


RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

No sprinkler system, only one exit, flammable cladding, inaudible fire alarms, instructions to remain in place, inability of fire fighters to access upper levels. Maybe I left something out, but sounds like a classic definition of fire trap.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
Sadly, that is the indeed the truth, hokie66.


The original 1970's concrete framing and existing precast concrete facade appeared to perform well for the duration of the inferno.


2012 Planning and Permit drawings from The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website: Link

Existing 1970's facade was horizontal STRUCTURAL perimeter precast spandrels and precast non-structural triangular-shaped column panels:



Quote (The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)

The existing tower has a concrete structural frame with precast concrete panels forming the external cladding to the residential floors.

Quote (The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)

For the upper 20 storeys precast concrete cladding has been used: one panel type serves as a structural spandrel under the
windows (horizontal) and the other is a decorative facing to the triangular pilasters, each a full storey height of 2.6m (vertical).

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Good find, Ingenuity. It does look like the concrete building and precast facade elements performed well, but they weren't pretty, and didn't insulate well. And the windows leaked, so the facade refurbishment was necessary.

According to those documents, there was to be 150mm of Celotex FR5000 insulation on the spandrels, and they specified a composite zinc panel over the insulation, not aluminum. Will be interesting to see a report, which I imagine will be made public in due course.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

If the building codes allow for that type of floor plan, they are totally wrong and should be changed.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the BBC, "Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire that engulfed a west London block of flats, killing at least 17 people.

That figure is expected to rise, as fire chiefs have said they do not expect to find any more survivors in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington."

Added: Any British engineers I've met have been exceptional and they should do an incredibly detailed study. Hopefully this will be released to the public; there's government involvement, and it or portions of it may not be released. The report may not be done in a timely fashion.


Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Likely, most such structures are grandfathered against current code requirements.
We had that situation when we installed solar panels on the roof, and the city demanded that we install CO monitors per latest code inside.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

When it comes to life safety issues, most grandfathering fails. This would have been a significant renovation. I suspect someone 'slipped up'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

There is a clear acknowledgement from building engineers and government that the design of many of the 4,000 or maybe it's 40,000 tower blocks is deficient and risks from fires and general aging, especially of concrete structures built 40, 50 or 60 years ago is increasing. However the sheer cost of replacing all these blocks and the number of people still living in them makes the problem too big to fix.

To be fair to the designers, the system has worked fairly well until now. Until they started cladding the outside of the buildings in what now appears to be wholly unsuitable material, the reality was that fires could be contained in one or two locations for a significant period and that spreading of the fires was slow and left time to evacuate people if required or extinguish the fire.

The Cladding issue is clearly the game changer and the fire and building regulations in the UK appear not to have kept up to pace with the materials being used and the desire to insulate properties (generally a good idea) has taken precedence over fire safety.

Thankfully fires in general and apartment buildings are now relatively rare, but clearly this will turn out to be a case where the design envelope was stretched too tight and has now failed with fatal consequences and ruined lives for many of the survivors.

In the mean time if I lived in one of these blocks I would be stocking up on smoke hoods for my family....

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

First time in a smoke tower was at the Ontario Hydro facility at Wesleyville, Ontario... had a mask and extinguisher and had to find a fire and put it out. The fire was propane bubbled through water and a they had a smoke generator... first time I realised that in a fire, you couldn't see you hand extended from your face. Smoke hood may not be helpful, except to keep you breathing.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Never heard of a smoke hood before. Learn something every day. Thanks.

----------------------------------------

The Help for this program was created in Windows Help format, which depends on a feature that isn't included in this version of Windows.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Smoke hoods are all very well, but check the endurance before you buy.

A.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Decent smoke hoods also shield the face from some of the IR preventing the head and face from becoming crispy. Endurance beyond a minute or so may be useless. If the person cannot escape in that time, the rest of them may become crispy. No doubt there are rare instances where a person will be safe from the encroaching fire but not the smoke, but I think those are pretty rare. In this case the escape stairwell may have become unsurvivable from heat, making a smoke hood useless.

I noticed on the Amazon page that came up for smoke-hoods that escape ladders were co-advertised.

The features that would have saved a lot of people was a functioning building alarm and positive pressure ventilation in the escape stairwell.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I wouldn't rush out and just buy any-ole smoke hood. It is true that most fire-related deaths are actually from smoke inhalation, so logically it would seem hoods have their place, such as when laying on the bed in a smoke-filled bedroom awaiting rescue, but it is also logical that immersed in flames isn't going to be one of those places. As 3DDave mentioned, actual escape utility is limited by the smoke itself. you've got to be able to find the exits. They are probably more of a gimmick than of actual use in escaping blindly through a smoke-filled building. Clearing smoke along the exit paths would appear to be an essential objective. I do however expect that they'd be better than water-soaked blankets at door gaps.

French News today just now reported the word is that those panels are the same light-um-up ones that "are banned in the USA".

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Smoke hood...sounds like another gadget which can't be located in the back of the closet.

There are still some unburnt sections of the facade, so the insulation and panels will be available for scrutiny by the investigators. And then, a comparison with what was specified.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Good point. In a smoke-filled room, how do you find your smoke hood?

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Ok, I dropped that in because I think it's a good idea than can save lives and reduce the impact of smoke inhalation. Repeat "can". It's not a solution to everything by any means, but the information from the fire in London is that there are currently 17 people still in critical condition suffering from smoke inhalation, but the burns unit set up by the hospitals didn't treat anyone. Sure, if the stairwell is full of smoke to the extent that even crawling along the floor you can't see, you're in great danger, but doing it still being able to breathe and not coughing / unable to breathe must be better than not. If you make it to the stairwell then it is a concrete shell hopefully protected by fire doors, but clearly often fills with smoke.

This discussion is going the same way as the argument over bike helmets (push bikes) goes sometimes - Do they protect you in all incidents / major crashes - NO. Do they protect you from minor crashes / falls which otherwise can be life threatening - Yes.

Fires in buildings like this normally take several minutes / hours to fully take hold. That's more than enough time to find your protective devices, especially if you've fitted them next to the door.

Would I rather give my self a decent chance of survival compared to not doing so - yes I would. Would it make a difference in a very fierce fire, probably not, but if 50% or 40% or 30% more people survived or equally survived without life changing injuries caused by smoke inhalation and these devices cost £25 each I think it's a wise investment. My personal view.

Fire protection in many high rise buildings is based on containing the fire allowing time either for extinguishing or an orderly evacuation. Retrofitting sprinklers and hardening the escape routes is going to be expensive and time consuming. All I'm saying is maybe we should also be looking at providing greater protection for those who stay put or need to evacuate to stop people jumping out of windows or throwing children out because they can't breathe.

The argument has been made in aircraft evacuations where there is a much greater issue over the speed of evacuation versus time to find and put on said equipment. Fires in buildings are normally much slower to develop so that argument doesn't hold IMO. If your room is so smoke filled that you can't see anything then you've pretty much had it, but that's an extreme event that takes time to develop unless the fire is in your room, when it's time to get out.

One thing I would like to know is what the design of the windows was with this refurb. I saw a clip on the news yesterday of a different block and it looked like the window ledge and window frame had been extended out along with the insulation, but this meant that any fire inside the insulation would propogate into the building much faster than if the fire was outside the window frame. I haven't seen any close details yet - anyone seen them?

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

According to this:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gre...

... fire resistant cladding was not used (because it would have cost 5k pound more). I still want to understand how fire resistant fire resistant cladding actually is.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks hokie I'd missed that drawing when I went looking before.

This bit looks pretty crucial to me



If I'm not mistaken if the inner insulation catches fire, all you have to stop the fire and smoke entering the individual rooms is a thin strip of something, probably PVC. Maybe even weakens the whole window frame so it falls out??

No visibility of any fire stops or what stops anything from coming between the insulation and the cladding.

This is horrible.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I have the same feeling. The fire is being blamed on the cladding, which this report says was Reynobond, the kind with a polyethylene core, and of course the cheaper of the options, not intended for high rise buildings. But although that stuff is highly flammable, there is not much of it in terms of thickness to support flame for an extended time. They don't seem to be concentrating on that 150 mm thickness of insulation. You can see it in the photos as a charred mess.

http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/claims-spendin...

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Apparently tjhe cladding was in part chosen based on looks:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gre...

However, I'd guess that the same looks can be achieved with any insulation material. Just shows where the priorities of those overseeing the refurbishment lay.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Well, of course the appearance of the building was a factor. It was grotty looking. But probably more important considerations were the insulation and the leaky windows. The objectives were fine, but the "devil in the details" proved disastrous.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Sprinklers would have cost around 200k £:
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-40293035

Don't know if they would have made much of a difference in this specific case.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

At least 30 confirmed dead...

From the Guardian, "Material used in the cladding that covered the Grenfell Tower was the cheaper, more flammable version of the two available options, an investigation of the supply chain has confirmed.

Omnis Exteriors manufactured the aluminium composite material (ACM) used in the cladding, a director, John Cowley, confirmed to the Guardian.

He also said Omnis had been asked to supply Reynobond PE cladding, which is £2 cheaper per square metre than the alternative Reynobond FR, which stands for “fire resistant”."

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Raise your hand if you think they purchased it because it looked better.

Expensive or not, replacing deficient cladding on (up to 4000??) tower block buildings may still be cheaper than carrying empty buildings on the books, or demolishing them. Now that the cat's out of the bag, nobody will be willing to live in any with that stuff stuck on them.

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Sorry but I bet people will be willing to live in them. If the rent is a little lower, they will come.

Just like if the cost of the cladding is a little cheaper, they will buy it.

Can I inject a term here? It sounds like there are some slum lords in the UK. Not that the UK is the only place they exist.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Cranky... unfortunately, I think you're correct... bit of a difference, in this case the slumlords are the governement which makes me think that there will never be criminal charges filed...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I think that element could get interesting. In England, there was an active policy in the eighties and nineties of trying to move public housing as far out of public ownership and control as possible. Where housing stock could be sold off, it was. Where it couldn't, then management was often passed to third parties. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (which manages Grenfell Tower) is a case in point.

Any organisation that manages over 9000 residential properties is big business - and can probably afford better lawyers than the Council would be allowed to buy.

A.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A couple of observations:
1) If this would of happened in the second or third world, I would of thought, "...well at least we have good building codes and it can't happen here." This is the second bad fire incident (Oakland, December, 2016) in very recent memory in code conscience areas. So we (myself included) shouldn't get cocky.
2) To add to some of the posters above, when I read that this was public housing, it didn't surprise me. I just hope that whoever made the decision to use this junk, didn't think, well these people are lucky to have a place at all, a cheaper cladding is fine.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A report I heard explained that the material in the aluminium cladding was not so much an issue as the design. The space between the cladding and the outer wall acted as a near-continuous chimney, allowing heat and flames the rise up the building sides very rapidly.
bbc.co.uk and theguardian.com will have up-to-date information.

"If you don't have time to do the job right the first time, when are you going to find time to repair it?"

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

brimstoner... and the insulation was combustible, too and the aluminum was a replacement for metal with a zinc coating... The replacement was undertaken for energy savings... with the several million dollars (euros, pounds, or whatever) it would have taken centuries for 'pay back' (unless you live in Ontario, where the return period could be a couple of weeks)... [Change]The Architects replaced a safe, non-combustible cladding with an unsafe system that may have cost 100 people their lives.

There are likely 'stack' issues that brought the fire and heat to the interior of the structure... I'm not sure sprinklers would have helped, but, they wouldn't hurt. The single stairwell was not good.

In Canada, we are going for multi-storey buildings using wood construction. I hope that the cladding is not as flammable.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Brimstone.

Look at the design I posted earlier. This really was a disaster waiting to happen. Death role will be close to 100. Very few of the missing will be found alive somewhere.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I will be curious to see what an investigation of the supply chain reveals. Photos after the fire show much of the spandrel panel insulation charred but still in place. The Columns are mostly bare. Consider that the spandrel panels were a custom profile, while the columns have more of a boilerplate fabrication. Did the manufacturer sub out the production of the column profiles or is the production line for the more standardized shaped cladding manned by less experience personnel? This photo sticks me as important in understanding what happened. It is when the sky is still in a state of darkness. Here are some time references.


Astronomical twilight begins 01:00:01
Nautical twilight begins 02:41:57
Dawn - civil twilight begins 03:55:26
Sunrise: 04:42:45

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot... it took 4-1/2 minutes for the flame to travel full height apparently.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Good observation, epoxybot. There was nothing to stop/start the fire going up the columns. But I doubt the details of fabrication made much difference.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Well something appears to have changed from the drawing board to the time of installing the cladding. It appears the number of/or location points of the column cladding changed. The susceptibility to fire damage between the column cladding and the spandrel cladding also seems dramatically different. In one photo of falling/burning debris there appears to be a plastic film as a remnant of a panel.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The plastic film was created by molten plastic that resolidified as it was falling through air. In videos of the fire you could clearly see burning molten plastic pouring from the facade, and also strings and sheets of resolidified plastic floating in the wind.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

What part do you think was plastic? Could that not be aluminum?

The section posted above shows the composite cladding connected to the concrete by some sort of bracket, presumably installed through the insulation. I wonder how that was done. And what held the insulation in place until it was restrained by the cladding? Glue? That is a rough architectural detail, done by someone who didn't know how it was going to be put together. I wonder (again) if there were shop drawings.

Maybe Ingenuity can find them. He seems to be our best detective.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

No. Nobody's going to be living in any of these things. It's gone politically ballistic.

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

2
(OP)

Quote (hokie66)

Maybe Ingenuity can find them. He seems to be our best detective.

Trying to 'dig deep' via Google, but shop drawings are tough to source. I have also noticed that several websites have shut down - for example, the refurb project architects (Studio E, LLC) shut their website down immediately following the disaster. I think the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has also restricted access to parts of the Glenfell Towers documentation, possibly from legal advice.

I did find this document authored in February 2016 from the UK forensic architects of PROBYN MIERS entitled:

'Fire Risks From External Cladding Panels – A Perspective From The UK' ==> Link

Some interesting extracts: The red-colored bold emphasis is by me.

Quote (PROBYN MIERS)

3.3 Interaction with the external envelope

It is at this stage of the fire scenario that the fire performance of the complete external cladding system, including any fire barriers, is critically important. Once flames begin to impinge upon the external fabric of the building, from either an internal or an external source, there is the potential for the external cladding system to become involved, and to contribute to the external fire spread up the building by the following routes.

3.3.1 Surface propagation

The reaction to fire characteristics of the materials used within the external cladding system will influence the rate of fire spread up the building envelope by way of the surface of the external cladding system.

3.3.2 Cavities

Cavities may be incorporated within an external cladding system, or may be formed by the delamination or differential movement of the system in a fire. If flames become confined or restricted by entering cavities within the external cladding system, they will become elongated as they seek oxygen and fuel to support the combustion process. This process can lead to flame extension of five to ten times that of the original flame lengths, regardless of the materials used to line the cavities. This may enable fire to spread rapidly, unseen, through the external cladding system, if appropriate fire barriers have not been provided (Figure 6).



Quote (PROBYN MIERS)

Fires in external cladding

At the same time as concern was developing regarding composite panels, another hazard emerged in connection with external rainscreen cladding:

Knowsley Heights fire 5 April 1991

An apartment block in Knowsley Heights, Liverpool, was the subject of an overcladding system in 1989-90. The scheme comprised overcladding panels fixed to vertical sheeting rails, all of which extended to ground floor level. [7]

“A fire was started deliberately in the rubbish compound outside the 11-storey apartment block. The fire spread rapidly through a 90 mm gap between the building’s rubberised, paint-covered concrete outer wall and a recently installed rain screen cladding (with limited combustibility). The fire spread all the way to the highest floor and seriously damaged the outer walls and windows of all the upper floors. …” [8]

The remedial works involved the introduction of horizontal cavity barriers at each floor level.




RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Nobody was watching BBC 2013
"The sheathing has not been used in the UK since the 1980s"

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Summer time in London, if it is as hot there as in June 2015, EVERYBODY will have their windows cracked open (rotated) so the cooler air will flow in from outside. (Very, very little AC in the lower-rent housing and most hotels and rental quarters up that far north. Even the "kings" moved their courts outside of London in Medieval, Shakespearean, Edwardian and Victorian times to escape the heat and smells of "London". )

So, the vertical column facings burned very, very rapidly upwards, causing massive vertical smoke and hot gasses right next to the open windows adjacent to the vertical column facades. Smoke got brought into the lower-opening windows by drafts, and the open windows removed any fire break effects of the normal cladding. Over a few minutes of time - 10-20 minutes perhaps - and the fire lasted hours, each individual window insulation and its plastic surrounding above the foam and cladding outside would fail, although slower than the vertical column facades. Worse, the smoke and flames coming in from the vertical fire outside the windows would "prevent" people from running to the windows and closing them, which will increase the number of windows left open as people run out the doors of each apartment. So the natural draft (outside cladding fire through window to door inside to hallway) increases the smoke load in the hallways and stairs.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Ingenuity... I should have copied the files when I was looking at them... I have a little 'bot' that will do a website and copy documents... missed out.

This is a failure from many directions... the Architect specifying or accepting an unsuitable and dangerous product... the building developer doing the same... the council... any building department involved... and maybe an error in the building code if this type of construction is permitted... Unfortunately a lot of people have lost their lives... in a horrible fashion.

Compositepro and Hokie: I would have thought the heat was sufficient that the aluminum panels would have melted/burned and with convection may have appeared to be 'floating'.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from the BBC, "A total of 58 people are dead or missing, presumed dead following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, police have said.

Commander Stuart Cundy said that number "may increase". The BBC understands it could be around 70 people in total."

I guess the fire burned hot enough and long enough that there may not be any DNA from the ash that remained.

Added: from the Guardian, "A fire investigation report into the devastating blaze at Grenfell Tower in west London will not be released publicly until the opening of full inquests into those who have died – which could take years."
Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Looks like they may be looking at this as a criminal investigation:

from the BBC, "The cladding used at Grenfell Tower was banned in the UK, chancellor Philip Hammond believes. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr:

My understanding is that the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the US, is also banned here. That’s my understanding.”

Asked why it was used, he replied: “There are two separate questions. One is, are our regulations correct? Do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials.

“Second question is were they correctly complied with? And obviously that will be a subject that the [public] inquiry will look at. It will also be a subject that the separate criminal investigation will be looking at.”"

Added: and from the Guardian, "David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, who knew one of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, demanded that the police seize all documents from relevant parties that could help explain its causes and assist the criminal investigations. He said: “The prime minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law. We need urgent action now to make sure all records and documents relating to the refurbishment and management of Grenfell Tower are protected.”"

I cannot find the article, but, there is an investigation into the shortcomings of the notifications to the various agencies about the fire resistance of the structure. Whoever did the building envelope screwed up bigtime.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK

We'll see what was spec'd and why the wrong material was used.

They may have a whole bunch of other buildings with the wrong cladding. One question, no one seems to be looking into... what caused the 'stack effect' that drew the fire into the building?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The outer aluminum composite skin appears to be Reynobond PE on Grenfell, which is a thin polyethylene sheet sandwiched between 2 outer thin aluminum layers. This would have contributed to the spread of the fire, but the major contributor, without a doubt, is this deadly 150mm thick polyisocyanurate foam (PIR) behind this composite aluminum skin posing as thermal isulation. This insulation goes by the trade name Celotex RS5000. This foam degrades into poisonous hydrogen cyanide upon combustion. The Celotex website appears to claim thousands of users from the building industry, and proudly offers a U value calculator for estimating heat savings.

Wonder if any one out there has verified the results produced by this U value calculator on the Celotex website using heat transfer first principles? Going from the inside wall to the outside, you have the following without the deadly PIR foam
a)The low inside htc due to natural convection
b)A few mm of plaster - low in thermal conductivity
c)Probably 100mm of low thermal conductivity masonry brick
d)Perhaps 25mm stationary air gap - again low conductivity
e)This composite aluminum / plastic PE layer - low conductivity again
f)A low external htc due to say a normal average windspeed of 1-2m/sec

With all these thermal resistances in series, how much does one really save by adding this 150mm of insulation ??

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik,

One factor may be the unusually warm wweather we've had in the UK recently, and the general lack of A/C in residential properties in this country: there is every chance that the residents simply had their windows open for ventilation, and once the fire was established it would be difficult to get to the windows in order to close them.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

georgeverghese,

I know little about insulation, but did raise the issue of the insulation in a post above. If what you say about the Celotex layer is correct, then that was a bigger contributor than the Reynobond composite. Would like to hear some further comment about that from the chemical and mechanical folks who should know.

One correction to your list: the spandrel panels below the windows are precast concrete, about 200 thick I think, not masonry brick.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Georgeverghese,

Celotax and its rival brand Kingspan are used in many domestic and commercial new-builds in the UK. Am I correct to think that these materials present a relatively low hazard due to fire when they are sandwiched between two masonry walls?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

@georgeverghese,

I think it's probably a bit early to say "... the major contributor, without a doubt, is this ..." as there is still a lot of uncertainty and speculation about exactly what products (both cladding and insulation) were:

a) specified; and
b) approved / certified; and
c) purchased / installed; and
d) inspected / certified as being compliant with the design, manufacturer's certified details, etc?

It is obvious that the installed facade performed catastrophically. However, it is quite possible that the original design / specification was entirely code-compliant, but if there was a substitution of products (e.g. substitution of flammable cladding and / or insulation where non-flammable materials should have been specified), and / or if installation details were altered from the approved details, this could have had catastrophic consequences.

It is even possible (although I would think unlikely), that the entire design and installation was code-compliant, and the major issue might be that the UK codes are hugely deficient.

I suspect the inquiry will reveal issues at all stages of the specification, design, procurement, installation and inspection / certification chain - especially when they start looking at a large number of over-clad high-rise buildings.

http://julianh72.blogspot.com

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)
Summary of what a perimeter section 'make-up' looks like (excluding the upper and lower details of how the cladding integrates into the window framing):



From the Celotex website, the datasheet on the RS5000 product Link (which is specifically designed for 'rainscreen' cladding applications), states:



"100mm SFS" is cold-formed steel framing.

The fire performance system testing appears to be done on a 12mm fiber cement panel cladding system.

No mention of the ACM panels in any fire performance system testing.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Agree, news indicates the masonry brick here is 250mm thick, and the air gap is 50mm - these will make the case for justifying the insulation even more difficult. Am not a fire expert by any means, but personally, I would baulk at the thought of using this awful isocyanurate foam material as insulation for any application, even if it were to be sandwiched in between 2 brick layers (unless you tell me the insulation cavity is completely airtight for 50years, even in fire conditions ) - the thick black billowing smoke we see in the video clips and photos tells me this could have only been from some cheap insulation. Should have been mineral wool or rock wool if you really need safe thermal insulation.

Believe this building had a gas supply to all floors - did the mains autoshutoff valve close off early on in the fire? I hear in the videoclips of blue flames shooting out of some windows long after the fire escalated - this could only be natural gas. And that there were no flammable gas detection devices installed in this bldg??

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It will hopefully come out in the enquiry, but I believe there are significant questions about not only the cladding, but also how the windows were fixed in.

Building regs have this issue about "cold spots" so there could easily be some sort of insulation around the window frames which melted in the heat allowing flames in. I've seen window frames "fixed" to the window holes by using expanding foam only in my time so how to prevent the window frames from failing needs to be considered.

Other point is that unlike the drawing, the reality if you look at the photo from epoxybot is that the windows are designed to tilt inwards at the top or open inwards. Both designed to stop things accidentally falling out of the window from an internal sill, but if left on vent by tilting inside will have fed flames and smoke into the flats very quickly, probably burning curtains etc.

The flats were simple concrete panel construction and many suffer badly from poor insulation, damp, condensation etc so adding external insulation is a decent way to upgrade the flats without loosing internal space which is small enough as it is. clearly it needs to be weather protected by something which doesn't burn.

The gap between the hard foam and the weather protection apparently prevents dampness penetrating the insulation but then causes issues with the flame speeding up behind the weather facing.

As for the gas I agree, but there's no evidence that anything was fitted to "auto shut off" as there wasn't anything to initiate it. No one has gas detectors other than your nose - gas is odourised and can be smelt at low concentrations. There is talk that the recent gas retrofit had not properly protected the main gas pipes in the service shaft and it clearly added to the fire, but only when everything was well alight.



Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Handful of pictures, including from inside the destroyed building: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/ungluecke/...

picture 2, you see some windowframes tiltes inward (lower left corner), windowframes seem to still be in places

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (Ingenuity)

Summary of what a perimeter section 'make-up' looks like (excluding the upper and lower details of how the cladding integrates into the window framing):

I have no knowledge of the UK Building Codes but I can assure you the design schematic you posted appears to have deviated from the ICC Evaluation Service report for the Reynobond ACM Rainscreen. See Section 4.4 of ICC ESR-345: http://www.icc-es.org/Reports/pdf_files/ESR-3435.p... This installation, in the US, would violate 2012 International Building Code Section 1407.

Given the age and occupancy of the building, the most economical solution is to retrofit sprinklers into these buildings. Based on the area of each dwelling/sleeping unit, it would provide a much higher level of fire protection and could be accomplished using CPVC piping.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from the CBC, "London police say that the number of dead or missing in aftermath of last week's fire at a highrise apartment tower is now 79.

Police Cmdr. Stuart Cundy gave the new figure during a statement outside Scotland Yard on Monday. The previous figure given was 58."

[added]jhardy1:
"I think it's probably a bit early to say "... the major contributor, without a doubt, is this ..." as there is still a lot of uncertainty and speculation about exactly what products (both cladding and insulation) were:"

From the movies taken, it was pretty obvious that the propagation of the fire was via the building envelope with some type of stack effect bringing the flame into the structure.

stookyfpe:
I don't have a handle on UK codes, but, I know that the flammable cladding is not permitted in Canada, and, I understand it is not permitted in the States.

The error is that the wrong material was used for the cladding. An architectural design error, at very least, or a substitution by the government, possibly with the blessing of the Architect.

Sprinklers may or may not have prevented the tragedy. The mayor of London is trying to deflect this by saying that the building type was old. This modern retrofit and the error in judgement by the professionals and regulators has cost nearly 80 lives. I'm being pretty harsh because a large number of people have, needlessly, been killed.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (dik)

stookyfpe:
I don't have a handle on UK codes, but, I know that the flammable cladding is not permitted in Canada, and, I understand it is not permitted in the States.

The error is that the wrong material was used for the cladding. An architectural design error, at very least, or a substitution by the government, possibly with the blessing of the Architect.

Sprinklers may or may not have prevented the tragedy. The mayor of London is trying to deflect this by saying that the building type was old. This modern retrofit and the error in judgement by the professionals and regulators has cost nearly 80 lives. I'm being pretty harsh because a large number of people have, needlessly, been killed.

Based on other media reports it appears that the fire began in one of the units and the source of ignition was a malfunction in an electric refrigerator. Purely speculation on my part but if an electric appliance ignited and the fire grew to a point where other combustibles were involved, an automatic sprinkler system discharging at 0.1 GPM/Ft^2 based on NFPA 13 or NFPA 13R (R= residential) would have prevented the fire from reaching the flashover phase. I suspect when the fire reached flashover, the glazing failed, which vented the heated fire gases and direct flame impingement onto the improperly selected and installed MCM. When this occurred, the MCM inner layer (an expanded polystyrene) pyrolyzed, ignited, and the "$hit went South" as we say in my fire stations.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I'm no civil/building guy, but to me, in reading the ICC Evaluation Service report linked to a couple posts up, the installation of the combination of PIR foam and rainscreen panels was not even remotely similar to any of the recommended installation methods. Maybe I'm just reading the ICC document wrong, or maybe the drawing doesn't show required details.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It might have started with an electric refrigerator? The talk about building cladding is well and good, but I'm struggling with the electric issue.
I can understand if the wiring was damaged, and the refrigerator was out of a normal place (in lower housing that would not be a jump to believe).
But was their other electrical problems with the fuse box, or circuit breaker?

I am guessing that the electrical is 220V, 50Hz, but I don't have much else in details to go on. Is it delta, or wye?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

cranky108,

400/230V earthed star, supplied as single phase 230V + neutral to each unit.

Plenty scope for an appliance fire to start in the right circumstances: even our smallest appliance fuse will allow over 700W continuously into a high impedance fault, and that will cause 'something' get damned hot quite quickly. In an older building there's no certainty that RCD / RCBO protection would be provided. An RCD is an GFCI in your patch of the world. If the wiring was original then the chances of RCD / RCBO protection are pretty small, and the protection for the appliance would be a fuselink of at least 3A and potentially as large as 13A if someone chose the wrong one for the application.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

stookeyfpe:

Looking at the films, the fire developed on the exterior prior to moving inward. It appears the roof is gone, and it may be that the elevator shaft and/or the stairwell created the stack. I don't know and this may come out. The exterior fire was sufficiently developed that when it moved to the interior the sprinklers may not have been effective; the consumables may likely have been outside the reach of the sprinklers. Sprinklers may have reduced the consumables and lowered the temperature a bit, but, I think most of the flame was on the outside out of reach from sprinklers. Hopefully a better understanding of the situation will evolve.

Should have added that if the initial fire was suppressed, then none of this would have happened... and in that manner, sprinklers would be great.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

DIK,

I looked at the photos I've seen on-line and the elevation of the lowest undamaged floor is 4 stories abovegrade. It's difficult for me to understand why a person would want to intentionally ignite a fire in a building and attempt the act from the 4th floor at 12:54 AM London time. My scenario is more plausible and one media article confirms it started on the 4th floor. Based on 28 years in the US fire service working for a major metropolitan Fire Department in the Fire Marshal's Office causes me to believe this was a dwelling fire that breached the glazing and subsequently ignited the cladding.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/world/europe/uk...

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik, you can always try archive.org and look back at previously captured views of peoples web sites.
It is great for after and incident when you want to know what they were saying before it happened.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote:

It might have started with an electric refrigerator?
If that's pure speculation, I'd add a candle to the speculation. I cannot believe how many people think it's great to have one of those soot generating menaces running somewhere - often untended. The guy across the street's house has dark sooted ceilings in almost every room.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Stookeyfpe: We'll have to see how this plays out... There's little doubt that this started as a dwelling fire on the 4th floor and the breach may have even been through an open window. It apparently started in an appliance(?) and the proximity of the appliance to the window or the location of any potential sprinkler heads may have an impact on whether sprinklers would have worked. I still have my doubts that they would have activated, but, we'll have to wait and see... all is speculation at this time predicated on relative experience...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Scotty UK,

It appears to be a classic SAR (Search and Recovery) operation. The building is divided by floor and into quadrants and the location of bodies or body parts are identified. During the operation, specialists with structural engineering training evaluate the structure and define no-go zones, which can hopefully be briged or otherwise braced so that a search can be completed. The protectve clothing includes HEPA filters on the face masks because of the potential for asbestos exposure.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Why is there disbelief that the fire started from a refrigerator? According to the firefighters who attended when my refrigerator caught fire (after my son and daughter had extinguished it with a blanket) this type fire is common. And they said the most dangerous thing in a house is an old clock radio, sitting on a wooden bedside table. If it is 10 years old, replace it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

wannabeSE... there weren't sprinklers. Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

hokie66... I don't know what the appliance was or where it was located. Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

LittleInch, In the oil and gas business, it is standard practice to install flammable gas detection devices in all Zone 2 poorly ventilated areas - these can be wired into a central Fire and Gas Panel to close off any or all sources of gas feed into the plant in the event of an emergency. These are usually set to trigger a plant alarm at 25% LEL and auto execute a sequenced shutdown and isolation of the plant.

I read a report of someone who complained about this on Grenfell and the fact that were no gas detection devices installed in the poorly ventilated internal stairwell through which some gas lines were passing through.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Dik,
I don't know either, but there are reports, including this one. I was just responding to some comments above that appeared to discount the possibility of a fridge fire.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/equipmen...

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Reading through the 2012 Planning and Permit drawings at The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website link that Ingenuity provided, it appears that during the planning & public comment stage there was a contractor, Leadbitter originally designated as the assigned builder. Also the original cladding system was presented to the tenants as VMZ Composite with a FR mineral-rich polyethylene core. In finalizing the project, Leadbitter was over the budget by over a million British Pounds, so the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided to put the project out to public bid. As near as I can tell there doesn't appear to have been a set of Specifications to accompany the drawings offered to bidders by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea & issued by the Architect. I'm thinking the proposals submitted by Facade & Curtain-wall contractors are open to whatever particular brand of cladding they feel meets the goals and which they are accustom to working with. I have read on the internet that in the UK, even if there wasn't an particular level of Fire Resistance specified, in the UK it does not absolve the responsible parties from insuring the proper safety standard is met. Under the law, if you undertake to perform the work you are obligated to know the standards. So the facade contractor, the general contractor, the TMO/property management are all on the hook. The Local Planning Authority also seems to be on the hook. In the Decision paper by the Town Planner authorizing the work, it states:

Detailed drawings or samples of materials as appropriate, in respect of the
following, shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local
Planning Authority before the relevant part of the work is begun and the
works shall not be carried out other than in accordance with the details so
approved and shall thereafter be so maintained:
·
Materials to be used on the external faces of the building(s)

The building had a problem with heat buildup in the summer and the center pivot windows were chosen to assist with air exchange but may have created a convection effect. Apparently the floor to window height of the existing concrete spandrel panels was too low & presented a risk of falling, if one were to lean to far out the window. That might explain the odd section drawing LittleInch posted. Having lived in a building with poor air turnover, it would not surprise me if some tenants left the front doors open to facilitate a better draft, exacerbating the updraft once the fire got going. How many left the door to their unit open when they fled?

UK refrigerators have Isobutane refrigerant as a replacement for Freon. Pre-2010 Isobutane Exploding refrigerators are a real possibility. Some of the evacuees reported seeing blue flames and hearing explosions as they fled. It seems refrigerator explosions occur most often at night, after the refrigerator door has been closed for an extended time.

The facade supplier appears to be OMNIS. While Reynobond PE is the suspected culprit. OMNIS produces & supplies more than one brand of ACM. They have removed their ACM .pdf spec sheet from their website. OMNIS had bought out Rigidal while it was under reorganization; right about the time the facade contractor, Harley was the low bidder...,

The Celotex type insulation doesn't strike me as the overwhelming fuel component. Much of the charred insulation remains in place on the spandral panels and large lightly scorched pieces of it are on the ground where they came away from the columns. It is the ACM low density polyethylene LDPE core that burned so rapidly. Same material as a plastic milk jug. Unlike the Celotex, it is a thermoplastic instead of a thermo-setting plastic. It melts, that's why it is used to make milk jugs in high volume. You can also find LDPE in many commercial waxes. Unbelievably, the people responsible, basically turned this building into a candle. Ingenuity's Red-Bold earlier post is very informative as to how this fire spread both up & down the facade. Cut up a milk jug and light a piece of it on fire, it burns very easily.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Both Kingspan and Celotex are made of the same stuff: polyisocyanurate - thermal conductivitity k is stated to be 0.025w/m/K.

While that for mineral wool used on external walls has a k value of 0.035w/m/k.

Have a read of the fire risk para in Wikipedia on the topic polyisocyanurate.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I'm curious... why would a long-closed refrigerator door lead to higher chance of explosion? I would have expected less heat loss led to less compressor cycling, which, on average, would reduce chances for explosion. Or is there some form of pressure build-up when a compressor doesn't cycle as often?

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The Isobutane leak seems to collect in the refrigerator compartment and when the refrigerator begins a cycle..., BOOM!

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

George - This was a domestic block of flats not a chemical plant.... I'm well aware of what O&G F&G systems look like, but you don't get that level of sophistication in a council or indeed any other type of tower block...

Also rockwool is good stuff, but not if it gets wet - this is the UK where it tends, normally, to rain a lot. It's also quite difficult to install on vertical walls compared to large solid blocks of foam. If you want both (solid and waterproof then its foam glas, but that's not as good an insulator and hence costs more.

McGyver - I suspect whoever made that comment was referring to "built in" fridges where many installers don't seem to realize you need to allow the fridge to have an air circulation and rely on the fact that you open the fridge several times a day allowing a gush of hot air to escape every time. Just my guess but I'm often amazed at what kitchen fitters do when it comes to equipment like this. Thus leaving it shut for a long time leads to a build up of heat.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

So it wouldnt be a suprise to hear that the natural gas supply and internal distribution piping in this 120 apartment tower block was another source of fuel for this fire, since it may have taken several minutes, if not hours, before some one manually isolated the mains supply valve.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

it could have contributed... reminds me of the old comment, Why Brits drink warm beer... British Leyland makes refrigerators, having had several British sportcars while ageing.

Added: I was able to capture 62 *.pdf files with building information... looking at the suite layout, it appears the fridge is located approx 5' from a window that could be open and the stove was approx 3' from the same window. Nothing like a frying pan of oil left on an element. One of the first things I've checked to see if there is a stove with the switch still on.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I thought it was because 'Lucas' (the Prince of Darkness) made refrigerators...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Could be Lucas... or, either for that matter.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea - SUSTAINABILITY AND ENERGY STATEMENT: Each flat is served by a 22mm natural gas supply originating from the kitchen riser. The single void flat has a pay-as-you-go gas meter under the kitchen sink. It is unclear as yet if this (meter) is the standard arrangement in all flats. - This suggests the flats were or were capable of being equipped with gas stoves.

The original heating features of the flats were hot water, radiant heated floors/ceilings & a small upright radiator. The discussion of the refurbishment of the flats included abandoning the aged/leak prone radiant heat system in the floor/ceiling and installing a larger upright water circulating radiator with a thermostatically controlled valve. The radiant heated floors/ceiling were identified as one of the factors contributing to heat build up in the structure. I may have read that the hot water supply and the radiant heated floors/ceilings were tied into together, though each flat had a hot water 'storage' tank.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Grenfell Tower firefighters put out fridge blaze 'and were just leaving when flats erupted in flames' http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/20/grenfel...
Well, this is an interesting development. Since the Fire Dept can now inform us which unit sustained the refrigerator fire, it will be interesting to see where on the exterior of the structure the unit was located. Assuming, this was the cause of the cladding fire.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It would have been nice if the article had mentioned where the fire was... maybe two sources.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

With respect to culpability of those who partook in the product selection, they may have been comfortably misled. There appears to be some poor classification work done by independent parties. Here is what looks to be a very offending document. If I understand correctly, the British Accreditation Service relied on the approval Reynobond received in France to facilitate their own approval certification. Reynobond has their European production facility in France. The certification is quite shoddy in the presentation of the PE material vs the FR material.

http://www.bbacerts.co.uk/CertificateFiles/45/4510...

and Comparative Certifications

https://www.arconic.com/aap/europe/pdf/Certificati...

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from the BBC, "Seven residential high-rise buildings in four local authority areas have been found to be covered in combustible cladding following safety tests.

Landlords are being told and more checks carried out, number 10 said.

It comes as further tests are being carried out on about 600 high rises across England.

Cladding is thought to have contributed to the rapid spread of fire at Grenfell Tower, in which at least 79 people are believed to have died.

Extra checks by the fire service would determine whether the buildings were safe and what - if any - action needed to be taken, the prime minister's spokesman said.

He pointed out that a failed cladding test did not necessarily mean a building was unsafe - that would depend on the amount of cladding used and where it was fitted.

Arconic, an engineering and manufacturing company, said one of its products, Reynobond PE (polyethylene) - an aluminium composite material - was "used as one component in the overall cladding system" of Grenfell Tower."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It would appear that several buildings in London are having Panels removed for tests and in some cases they are taking it off entirely, see link: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/820159/Cladding-r...

B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It's my understanding that the issue with cladding material in multistory or high rise buildings isn't just with the cladding material but the entire assembly as a whole - including installation details. Each installation and any additional "layer" to a wall needs to be tested separately because fire can react to each assembly differently.

PIR foam is a thermoset material which means - while combustible, they form a char and doesn't contribute to the spread of flame. That being said, any foam plastic still needs to be separated by a thermal barrier or be tested as a thermal barrier. The ACM material however, is a thermoplastic which can melt and ignite at lower temperatures.

I'm not too familiar with the European codes, but typically foam plastic insulation and metal/aluminum composite materials need to be tested via FM 4880 and NFPA 285. These are tests that measure the flame characteristics of the foam as well as the cladding assembly in multistory buildings. The Grenfell tower installation looked different than what Reynobond has in their ICC-ES report. Building codes would have different requirements for materials rated with different types of flammability characteristics which are intended to prevent disasters like this.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

In the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyisocyanurate) there's a 'fire test' that shows what happens to PIR foam when there is no thermal reflector and there is no preheated air. Given that the PIR surface is immediately combustible and was installed on the tower under an aluminum panel that reflected the heat of combustion back onto the foam and prevented the heated air from escaping as it does in the short video, it makes me wonder what happens when it exceeds 200C, listed as the breakdown temp for the isocyanurate bonds. Does evolve any combustible gases above that temp?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Part of the problem is not knowing what the UK codes are and what is acceptable. If they permit combustible insulation, in any area, except for a few specialised applications and absolutely nothing in high rise cladding, they they are negligent. xez: I think your understanding is correct.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This item from the BBC does a nice job of showing the progression of the fire. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40301289 About half way down the web page is a graphic showing the suspected point of the fires origin. The fire started on the East side of the building, which has 3 spandrel panels & two inside columns, as does the West side. The North & South have 4 spandrel panels & 3 inside columns. Assuming the kitchen/refrigerator fire was the source, then the fire would have started at the East-Northeast inside column. All the kitchens in the building are oriented East to West & radiating from the building core. Here you can see the window arrangement with exhaust fan at the E-NE inner column on the Eastern face of the structure, starting at the 4th or 5th floor. Did an open window supply the flame & the fan enrich the burning? Reports suggest the Fire Dept had just put out the kitchen fire and were returning to the Fire Coach with the facade burst into flames. The Fire crew should know if the exhaust fan in service & window was open. The frame of the window is quite close to the column panel/facade joint/gap.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot... the floor plans of the suite show both the fridge and the stove in proximity to the windows.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Great link... noted in the comments for the link, a safety group had been established, and, one of the comments, "Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in our landlords failure to deal with a serious health and safety issue that recently developed at the entrance/exit to Grenfell Tower. This matter is of particular concern as there is only one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during the Improvement Works and the potential for a fire to break out in the communal area on the walkway does not bear thinking about as residents would be trapped in the building with no way out!"

If the tenants were really concerned they could have hauled the rubbish out... The tenants were not at all aware of the real safety issues... ones that would take 80 lives.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

My calcs tell me that, with the 150mm of PIR insulation, 50mm air gap and a composite aluminum skin with 4mm core LDPE layer cuts down heat loss to 15% of the bare wall heat loss, which clearly justifies thermal insulation. The biggest resistance to heat transfer is the insulation.

Replacement of the PIR insulation with the same thickness of rock wool insulation cuts down heat loss to 18% of that for the bare wall, so about the same thermal performance as PIR insulation.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the CBC, "A fire that engulfed a London apartment block, killing at least 79 people earlier this month, started in a fridge freezer, police in the U.K. city said Friday.

Det. Supt. Fiona McCormack said the Hotpoint model, FF175BP, was not subject to recall and that the manufacturer was doing further tests.

"We now have expert evidence that the fire was not started deliberately," McCormack said.

Whirlpool, the company that owns Hotpoint, said it is helping authorities get all the information needed for the investigation.

Police said both the insulation and tiles used in cladding at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block failed all post-fire safety tests.

"Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started," McCormack said."

I had no idea that fridges were that flammable...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Dik - some report it uses a form of isobutane as the working fluid. I guess this was when Freon was getting taken from the market.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks 3D... didn't know they used that for a coolant until this fire broke out... I've moved the kitchen fire extinguisher to the other side of the stove rather than between the fridge and the stove... maybe makes more sense.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

If this had occurred in North America, you would be looking at the largest professional liability claim ever as well as damages to those injured. A matter of filing a complaint against the architects with whatever registering body they have. Contacting the architects for a manner of repair, and then launching a lawsuit.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik, this is where things get muddy. Do we know for sure that flammable insulation was specified? Or maybe it was substituted as an or equal? Does the code address this? Juries tend to put great stock in "we followed the code, bad as it was..."
How much of the liability goes to the refrigerator manufacturer? How much to the original architect? How much to the insulation manufacturer?
I wouldn't want to be in any of their shoes right now. Of course, all their suffering doesn't amount to anything compared to the people who died, lost loved ones or were injured.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

No idea... but, it was unlikely that the change to the cladding was done without approval by the architect. Fridge manufacturer was American...

Lots of targets, but if construction was anything like North America, the Architect was in the loop and either spec'd the original material, or, approved the alternative. Being a knowledgeable professional, he may be largely to blame.

If the fridge manufacturer had prior information about the incendiary nature of his fridges, he is another good target. I'm surprised there has been little discussion about the pending litigation. I would have thought the lawyers would be 'lining the streets'. They now have 27 buildings that are 'fire traps'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This might be behind a firewall, but it looks like this was a systemic breakdown of building codes and building code philosophy.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The Grenfell Towers project was tendered as design/build with the Council & TMO(prop. mgmt.) novating(transferring) the Architect's contract to the winning bidder. A new player in all of this is Artelia. Artelia was in some way involved as project manager but it may be that they were simply involved in EU scheduled contract compliance of public tenders. Here is the public tender.
http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:283398-201... The contract was awarded on Jun 2, 2014. The 1st joint newsletter (June) from KCTMO & Rydon states "Since the April
newsletter we have been busy working with the Council’s planning department on the type of cladding which will be used." By August a full size mock up of the cladding was on display on the 2nd floor exterior.
http://www.kctmo.org.uk/files/102411_august_2014_g...

I'm not convinced that there is any manufacture's defect that can be assigned to the Hotpoint refrigerator. The model ceased production in 2009 after a production run of over 60K. The most frequent complaint was that it was noisy. The majority of other performance complaints are the kind most service technicians are familiar with and in spite of what many purchasers may insist is not true remain valid. Examples: The refrigerator is not on a dedicated circuit or the refrigerator is not on a circuit of correct amperage, etc. I think it more likely that the buildings electrical wiring and power management damaged either the resident's wiring or the fridge. The Grenfell Action Group has a blog entry from 2013 regarding power surges and brown outs, that in a large multi-story residential building are disturbing. This building was built in the 70's & while there is not confirmation, consider that there are other Social Estates in the UK, built at that time, that were wired with aluminum wiring, common in the 70's. From what I have gathered, insufficient power will eventually cause your electronics & appliances stop working but power surges are what cause them to burst into flames. The Grenfell Action Group described these problems as occurring at night. Here is the blog entry.
https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/...



RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

No aluminum is not bursting into flames from the surges. Actually its the normal current that can cause sparks... eventually. Aluminum creeps more than copper. It has an expansion coefficient about 50% greater than copper, so turning an AL wired circuit on and off expands and constracts the wire 50% or more than a copper wire, which can more easily loosen connection screws. That can cause sparking across any developing gap. Aluminum does not conduct electricity quite as well as CU, so it gets slightly hotter than CU, and expanding even more, though they carry the the same amperage. 12 gauge AL wire must be used where 14 gauge CU wire works. If the gauge substitution is not made, AL wire will reach even higher temperatures. AL wiring can go wrong in several ways without actually getting tasered.

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From JedClampett's link:

In a brochure aimed at customers in other European countries, the company cautions that the polyethylene Reynobond should not be used in buildings taller than 10 meters, or about 33 feet, consistent with regulations in the United States and elsewhere. “Fire is a key issue when it comes to buildings,” the brochure explains. “Especially when it comes to facades and roofs, the fire can spread extremely rapidly.”

I would be concerned about using that product in any building, irrespective of height.

BA

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

2
The biggest problem in aluminum wire is that aluminum oxide that forms almost instantaneously is not conductive, unlike oxides of copper. As a result when the connection cools, the exposed area becomes less conductive, forcing the current to a smaller section. This increases the resistance at that one spot and increases the heat which leads to either direct ignition or melting of the insulation leading to high-resistance shorts to the electrical box which starts a fire.

I expect that the lower thermal conductivity of aluminum decreases it's ability to limit localized heating.

The means to avoid this is to protect the connection from corrosion.

This is from personal experience - one with the pole-wiring that burned up the connection to the house because no anti-oxidant was applied, leading to sporadic power loss to the house. The other was finding 4 inches of bare wire in an outlet box from the insulation that melted back.

Creep, lower section conductivity, higher coefficient of expansion are all contributors, but rapid, low-conductive corrosion of aluminum is the main killer.

Some things have been changed in the wiring industry to offset these effects but, personal opinion, aluminum in home wiring represents a really bad idea, no matter the up-front cost savings.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Excerpt from the Grenfell Action Group blog,
...reports made by residents that they saw and smelt smoke coming from various electrical appliances on the morning of 29th May. This was the day the whole electrical system went into meltdown, and by the TMO’s own admission, fused several key meters and damaged or destroyed electrical appliances in 40 individual residences.

The official count was 45 residences on the upper stories of the building. Residence also reported smoke coming from light fixtures. The Council accepted KC-TMO's response that it wasn't smoke but "steam" from moisture. I am of course speculating that negligence by KC-TMO in dealing with the power surges that went on for 3 weeks in May of 2013, prior to a catastrophic outage and the resulting outage may have damages wiring elsewhere in the structure.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot just threw another 'fly in the ointment' with the inclusion of significant electrical issues, possibly caused by a faulty building electrical system or a faulty building electrical supply. With the spectre of aluminum wiring also a possibility. Ontario Hydro had quite an issue with aluminum wiring a few decades back.

Added: I qualified the refrigerator issue subject to the manufacturer being aware of a problem.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The UK has problems. This is a big one. A stiff upper lip won't solve it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the AP, "LONDON -- Britain's government said local officials across the country Sunday should urgently submit samples of exterior panels from apartment towers after authorities found that all samples tested so far have failed fire safety standards."

Problem could be 'really' big... just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The 100% failure rate to date (out of 60+ tests) is just jaw-dropping.

I'd like to think that the people who deep-down already knew they'd got a problem got their samples in fastest and that as this next week develops we'll start to see an increasing proportion of passes - but somehow I'm just not that optimistic.

A.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Greg:

"They should be testing the panels as installed, not just the panels in isolation."

They are testing the panels already installed and these are failing. They should never have used the material, as they are finding out after costing 80 lives.

Whoever specified the material in the first place should be the first on the block... ie, chopping block. It surprises me that there is no mention of lawyers... maybe a different culture...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

On BBC Radio 4 this morning they were discussing the fire safety tests on the cladding and the 100% failure rate. It seems that the test regime that has been applied has not been disclosed so it is difficult to say how valid the tests are.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Jed Clampett, - great link, worked ok for me and it's sometimes the way that an outside party can take a better overall look at things than people closer to the action.

Regulations and codes are normally written with the best of intents and purpose to prevent such tragedies like Grenfell Tower. Over time though they can become outdated, not keep track with newer materials and construction techniques and can be applied very rigidly, leading to legitimate calls for replacement, revision or removal. You can get, like this instance, where a desire to do something better for all (reduction of emmissions and increase in comfort due to adding insulation to the outside of buildings, retrofitting gas supplies) comes up against the potential downside of fire up the outside of a building for which it wasn't designed.

The issue here will be that this issue of cladding was highlighted some years ago and for reasons not clear to me, the revision to the building regulations has now been outstanding for some years. The fact that this material is only very marginally cheaper than the "fire resistant" material makes it even worse.

The reality of modern engineering and construction techniques is that little by little things are reduced until the point that they fail. Then it usually takes a significant loss of life in a single incident for action to happen. The potential for this is often there and missed as it has "never happened before". Of course it has, but on a much smaller scale.

Fire protection and prevention in high rise tower blocks has always been an issue - the stay put has worked well up to now when concrete buildings could be relied on to not transmit flames vertically between flats. Now? I think anyone in a high rise who sees fire or smoke will be leaving, which could then cause issues with overcrowding on the fire escapes and prevent fire fighters getting access, no one with smoke hoods etc collapsing and blocking the access, never mind the infirm and disabled.

I think a major factor here was simply the time of year - most people would have had the windows on "vent", i.e. angled inwards at the top and hence transmission of flames was made much easier, which would not have happened in the winter. Of course the windows and window frames may have failed at some point, but this seems to have been an easy way in along with the vents from the kitchen vents (see the picture by epoxy bot).

The UK culture on lawsuits etc is, thankfully, still a world away from the US, but the claims will come in time - the defence though will be that it wasn't banned / against the code that existed at the time and had been used in many locations before without an issue.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A very weak defense, because that is contrary to how codes work. Codes can't possibly ban the infinite number of potentially inflammable materials that are known to man today for use as building claddings, or ban all new ones that might get invented on the morrow. Codes might list approved materials, but I think it doubtful that there are any materials that have actually been banned anywhere in that code. Are there any materials actually listed as banned? Dry straw used to be a common insulative material, but I would bet it is still not specifically banned by name in the code.

Neither excuses are a defense. Use elsewhere is not exactly a qualification for use, esp in a different location, under different circumstances. As already seen above, it is possible to safely use materials under some circumstances, which may be wholely unsafe under others.

I am afraid that the designer-specifier or accepting agent would bare prime responsibility for not knowing under which circumstances the specified materials could be legally and safely used, unless the materials were specified and accepted for use under false pretense of some sort.

Richard Feynman's Problem Solving Algorithm
1. Write down the problem.
2. Think very hard.
3. Write down the answer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Question: Would have a non-flamable cladding, installed above a flamable insulation have made a difference? I think not, the cladding would still generate the chimney. Am I wrong?
AFAIK some styrodur insulation are flamable but extinguish when no other fuel is present, then the material of the cladding would be very relevant. Maybe I missed among all the talk about the cladding what kind of insulation was used.

Another question: upthread, and in the NYT article, positive pressure emergency stairways where mentioned. The doors have to open inward, against the pressure. I'd think that maintaining a positive pressure uniformly along the length of a stairwell without the pressure diff locally beeing to high for some people. Likely a solved problem, how is it done?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

MartinLe:

I think the problem was the thicker layer of insulation applied to the building with an air gap between it and the aluminum encapsulated insulation... This was the cause of the fire spreading so rapidly... the air gap provided a stack for the flame to quickly progress upwards.

From the Guardian, "The government appears to be blaming councils and housing associations for the slow pace of fire safety tests on high-rise buildings after only a tenth of the 600 tower blocks potentially at risk have been tested in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Theresa May outlined an emergency inspection programme last week that could test 100 samples a day. However, test results have been revealed for only 60 high-rise buildings in 25 areas, and all of them failed combustibility checks.

On Monday, housing minister Alok Sharma said “round the clock” testing was under way, but he appeared to blame landlords for failing to submit samples. "

I can see this being a huge financial undertaking for the councils.

One politician is referring to the negligence as 'murder'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

So the original outreach presentation, by Studio E Architects to residents, included two cladding materials VMZ - Zinc/FR-PE Composite & Marley Eternit - EQUITONE fibre cement facade panels.

An interesting factoid is the Limiting Oxygen Index (%) of a given material. The Limiting Oxygen Index (OI) is a convenient test to make preliminary determinations about the flammability of a given material. It is the amount of Oxygen needed to self-sustain a flame. Atmospheric Oxygen at sea level is 21%. I have read values of 23% & 28% as the value needed to render a material non-flame self-supporting. Paraffin has an Oxygen Index of 16% & Polyethylene (PE) an OI of 17.4%. Most of the data on Polyisocyanurate (PIR) is behind "pay-walls" but the most common IO reference I found was 22-23% and one as high as 29%. With such a minimal need for Oxygen, one would think that PE would burn like a candle but its vapor pressure limits its combustion. A caveat of the Limiting Oxygen Index test is that the flame is applied to the sample from above and the buoyancy of the flame, limits the ability of the test to yield real world results. Many of the most fire resistant materials drop by as much as half the OI% when the flame is applied to the bottom of the sample. This is not true of Polyethylene, it remains at 17%. So one can conclude that the vapor pressure of Polyethylene doesn't make it the best combustible material but its low requirement for atmospheric Oxygen makes it a great fire starter. How good a fire starter is Polyethylene? It has a heat of combustion just shy of diesel fuel. Heat of Combustion in MJ/kg: Paraffin 42-46 / Polyethylene 44 / Diesel 44-45.

A likely scenario is that the burning of the Polyethylene creates a heat column sufficient to render any fire resistance that might have existed in the PIR insignificant. Even though much of the Polyethylene melted, the melted PE would have pooled on the firestop blocking between floors. Molten Polyethylene retains a remarkable amount of heat and would have radiated that heat back up the void creating a flash-over condition & compromising the PIR very quickly. At about 900C the vapor pressure of Polyethylene has no deterrent effect on its combustion and it burns like a paraffin candle, completely leaving zero waste product.

Regardless of the materials that turned Grenfell Tower into a candle, the question should be asked; "Who started the fire?" and considering the very serious electric problems Grenfell Tower experienced in May 2013, the wiring of the building in the undamaged flats needs to be given a thorough forensic inspection and the purchase orders of the electrical contractor examined to determine what remedial measures were taken. In the UK, electrical wiring is typically installed on a 32 amp Ring Circuit and electronics & appliances are protected by fused wall plugs. A refrigerator would have had a 13amp wall plug but they don't blow until they exceed 20amps. If you share your ring circuit with your neighbors (all the units had in-flat prepaid-meters) you can experience a power surge when something like the washing machine of refrigerator draws a high current when the motor starts. And then, their are the tenants of a building who had experienced so many power surges & brown outs; changed out so many fuses on their electronics & appliances. Many who came from undeveloped & developing countries are used to coming up with work-around solution that compromise safety, like hot wiring the fuse holder.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

MartinLe (Civil/Environmental) Here is a link to smoke ventilation system installed.
https://archive.is/Jrbfy#selection-709.10-709.34

It was intended to work based on a compartmentalized fire scenario, possibly affecting at most two floors. Considering the fire reached the top of the structure in a matter of minutes, one has to question is the intakes of the ventilation system may have sucked & blown smoke into the stairwell.

I have read at least one news item where the Fire investigators are looking into the possibility that the cladding ventilation gap on the columns may have been greater than that on the spandrel 'cassette panels'. My own eye perception last week was that the cladding ventilation gap on the columns appeared to be the width of a 2x4, so 90mm.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

MartinLe - people often open doors against positive pressure. This happens when wind is directed against the face of the building the door is in. It takes very little pressure to alter the direction smoke takes.

While there is some risk of some people being unable to push the stairwell door open, there is a far greater risk if smoke enters the stairwell. http://fire.co.clark.nv.us/(S(wezctxbq2goerxvi012x... is the report from the MGM grand hotel fire in 1980. At the end are interviews with some of the survivors.

The wikipedia article summarizes it - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM_Grand_fire

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot - although the columns do appear to have been insulated as you can see evidence on the photos I wonder if the deep corrugations on the column allowed flames / air to pass up the inside of the insulation or whether the insulation in those sections was not as thick. Clearly any fire stops on the columns were useless if indeed fitted and long vertical sections appear to be the clear accelerating element.



Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

LittleInch (Petroleum) - I think the trapezoidal relief feature proved to be a difficult surface for the workers to mechanically secure the insulation to the columns. The insulation charred much like what remains on the spandrel panels but the longer sections of charred column insulation fell to the ground during the fire. The trapezoidal area is about 25% of the surface area of the column face and if char formed on the back side and resulted in some expansion, then it pushed the insulation panels away from the column increasing the air gap & fire until the char collapsed. Here is a good photo of the cladding assembly & the fire stop blocking. On the columns, it looks like the fire stop is all that secures the insulation in place. The horizontal presentation of the spandrel insulation, confinement top & bottom plus the fire stop seem to be what held the spandrel insulation in place, for the most part.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)

Quote (LitteInch)

I wonder if the deep corrugations on the column allowed flames / air to pass up the inside of the insulation

I think you may be correct. Looks like they used cold-formed steel to offset and attach the PIR to the existing column exterior, and creating an additional cavity: Plan-section of detail:


RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Ingenuity (Structural) - The green area in the section drawing with the note: Additional Cavity Here??? is representative of the concrete columns from the 3rd floor to ground. The green section from the 4th floor up represents the precast concrete fascia attached to the poured-in-place concrete columns. Either the precast concrete fascia was never added to the lower floors or it was removed sometime over the years. The original planning supplied by the architect for the refurbishment suggested a brick exterior on the lower floors but some other kind of fluted fascia was placed instead.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Interesting, I posted a query to DesignToEurocodes on June 14 regarding the fire and there has been no comment whatsoever.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Does anyone know how they are testing the cladding on these other buildings? Sure, they can be flammable, but there are a lot of building materials out there that are flammable. They need to be designed properly so that the building is safe when everything is put together. The design of the wall assembly is important - not just what cladding material or insulation is used. I wonder what the British building code says regarding this type of cladding on a building at this height.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Fire tests being undertaken apparently do not fall under any British Standard or EU Standard. No one has filed a complaint through any of the professional organisations. It looks like the politicians are getting involved, from the Guardian,

"Building safety experts have warned that government tests on tower block cladding in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster lack transparency and are too simplistic to be used to condemn blocks as unsafe.

Fire risk consultants and architects have suggested the government should reveal what tests were being conducted on the material after it was revealed every single cladding sample sent for analysis had failed the new assessment.

The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Monday that samples of aluminium panels from all 75 buildings that had been sent for fire retardancy testing had so far 'failed'.

But he did not reveal what testing was undertaken apart from to say they determine whether the materials meet 'the requirement for limited combustibility in building regulations'.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked councils to cut samples of at least 25cm x 25cm from the cladding of towers and send them to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at Watford for testing but has not said if the tests show whether they meet a British standard test."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Perhaps tests need to be done that should fall outside of any EU or British standard.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

As epoxybot noted earlier about LOI... the test has to have significance and be repeatable...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I hope this disaster has been on the minds of the people responsible for the oversight and enforcement of similar regulations here in the US, but I'm not holding my breath...

What The Grenfell Fire Could Teach Trump

The Trump administration has been loosening health and safety regulations since Day One.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/grenfell-fire-...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
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RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This seems to be the route of ingress of fire debris behind the cladding. The cold-formed steel hangers for the cladding form a boxed U-shaped channel. As flammable debris cascaded down between the gap between the 4th floor Column ACM cassette/panel & the Spandrel ACM cassette it would have channeled much of the debris to the inside of the 3rd floor Column ACM cassette. I'm speculating that the black material along side the insulation, is window flashing with a bituminous composition. Some of the flammable debris would have landed on the bottom of the forth floor Spandrel ACM cassette (3rd floor window soffit). So the "Hook & Pin" method of ACM suspended cladding installation created a vulnerability.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The window frames did not extend column to column. The vertical edge of the window frame stopped 6 inches or more from the columns. What was used to fill in this void is anyone's guess but it is this design attribute that compromised the compartmentalization of each of the flats. The use of, what I assume, is a ?rubberized/bituminous? window flashing, primed this void with a material much more flammable than the Reynobond Polyethylene ACM or the Celotex PIR Insulation board. The composition of such a material is a mixture of: Heavy Paraffinic Distillate Solvent Extract CAS# 064742-04-7 , Petroleum Asphalt CAS# 008052-42-4 & Styrene-Butadiene block copolymer CAS# 009003-55-8. The HMIS - Hazardous Material Identification System used on Material Safety Data Sheets, identifies such a composition as having a Fire Rating of 1. (Slight Hazard Materials that are normally stable, but can become unstable at high temperatures and pressures.) It has a flash point around 210C and, if left exposed, would be the most vulnerable material in the assembly.

The design decision to use the ACM Column cladding as the vertical edge of the window opening, doomed the safety of the interior of the flats.



RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the Guardian, "Dozens of exposed gas pipes in Grenfell Tower that caused residents to fear for their safety were left bare despite a council safety expert ordering them to be protected by fire-retardant boxing.

The National Grid agreed to protect the pipes serving individual flats, which had been installed over the winter, but had only added a third of the boxing by the time the deadly blaze killed at least 79 people."

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/27/gr...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Epoxybot... I think the main object is not to encapsulate combustible material, but, not to use it in the first place.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik (Structural) - I don't disagree. For the contractor, it comes down to the windows. They were able to use the same left hand & right hand windows on all 4 elevations by staying with just one size. It violated the Environmental Planning done with respect to natural lighting as set forth in the commissioned BREEAM study but it was less money, maybe.... The building required a total of 294 windows on the upper 21 floors. Instead of buying 84 Left-hand Windows & 84 Right-hand Windows, sized for the North & South elevations AND buying 63 Left-hand Windows & 63 Right-hand Windows sized wider for the East & West elevations. They bought 147 LH & 147 RH windows all of a smaller size. So it seems, they adjusted the volume of the column cavity to accommodate the uniform window sizing.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot - excellent drawings, pictures and commentary and it has been a thing I struggled with as well which was of course the outside cladding shouldn't catch fire and spread like it did, but even so how did it catch the whole building like it did and enter the flats as quickly as it did. Gaps around the window frames filled with something very combustible was my thought and this seems to give weight to that theory.

There was something very odd / different with those columns though which may or may not be replicated on long vertical sections on other buildings. Your picture in the post of 16 June 21:28 is still the most dramatic and alarming of the whole sequence leading to this appalling loss of life and injury.

You should volunteer this to the public Enquiry.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the BBC, "Cladding from 120 high-rise buildings in 37 local authority areas in England has now failed fire safety tests, the prime minister has said.

Theresa May told the Commons it was a 100% failure rate, as all of the samples submitted so far since the Grenfell Tower fire had failed."

Link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40432062

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

There does not appear to be any comment on any of the news sites of Architectural malfeasance. No indication of who specified what, or if this had changed.

Added: I'm not sure what the role of an Architect is in the UK.

Also no reference to shop drawings that would have had reviewed construction details. The problems seem to be mounting: combustible material, appliance issues, electrical issues, and gas issues. Not sure what they did right.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik (Structural) - The project was tendered to be Design & Build by the bid winning contractor. The contractor would be responsible for all design work that was beyond the scope of the original planning documents developed by the architect. So the architect is responsible for choosing the rain-screen scenario and the decision to insulate the columns. The Design & Build contractor is responsible for the selection of the materials used to create the design. The architects original contracted role was architectural design consultant, prior to Novating.
Here is a UK link to Novating an Architect to a Design Build contract. Link
Design Build (scroll) Link
Liability Link

There may be considerable liability that falls on the property management company, KCTMO, in concert with the Contractor. The Decision Notice issued by the Town Planner specifically called out for the External Cladding & Windows to be submitted to the local planning authority Kensington & Chelsea. The reasons given by the Town Planner were largely esthetic but the Contractor seems to have done an end-run on the submittals process. The contractor staged a full scale mock-up in July/August of 2014 on a lower floor of Grenfell. They may have gotten a verbal acceptance but a actual submittal might have raised a red flag about the cheap material selection and the absence of an FR rating on the cladding.

LittleInch (Petroleum) - I think the Fire Inspection team already know that the gap between the window frame & the columns was the path of fire entry inside the flats. A number of photos from 2 days after the fire show fire inspectors (or possibly Structural Engineers) taking numerous photographs, principally focused on the column areas of the structure. This very large scale photo shows how intense the fire was at the columns. Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Epoxybot:

I read somewhere that an Architect had to be used by the design builder and that it was recommended the original architect should be used, but not mandatory. In any event, a chartered Architect was a requirement. Architects are normally responsible for the design of the building envelope.

Added: Materials selected, in any event, would have to comply with whatever codes are in effect. It may be that UK building codes permitted the construction of fire traps.

From the liability Link you provided, which was excellent:
https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Liabilit...
does not really clarify things and indicates that certain degrees of competency are required. It appears the British system does not hold Architects, and perhaps Engineers, to account like the model established in North America. I guess we'll have to wait and see what 'shakes out'. I'm really surprised there has been no mention in the news of this and that there is not a line up of lawyers.


Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I really don't buy the argument that the Hotpoint Refrigerator is the defacto cause of the fire. Yes it caught fire and the blaze in the flat set fire to the external cladding but a refrigerator that sold over 67,000 units and was discontinued in 2009 and has had a limited number of catastrophic events does not appear to me a defect of manufacturer design or manufacture. That said, by British Standards specification, the power cord for most UK refrigerators are undersized for the current the draws when the motor starts. This is allowed because the cord is under 2 meters in length. It is just one more example of how politics have invaded safety. After all, who would ever plug a refrigerator into an extension cord? Of course manufacturer documentation in the UK & here in the US say, you should never plug a large appliance into an extension cord, yet appliance extension cords are sold by the same people who sell the refrigerators. Consider with the catastrophic failure of the Grenfell Towers electrical system in May 2013 after 3 weeks of power surges & brown outs, what effect that would have had on a power cord that was intentionally undersized by British Standards. Any investigation that stops short of opening the walls of the undamaged flats to access wear & tear of the building's wiring and likewise examining the state of the remaining appliances, will not be a though examination of the cause of the fire.

It is too bad we do not know where the refrigerator was located, though photos of other fire ravaged units suggest it may have been close to the window. Knowing now that the window frames do not extend to column, it raises the question if the fire damaged the wall at the column/window frame interface, inside the flat. What the tenant of the 4th floor flat can tell regarding the actions of the Fire Brigade, the resulting damage, if the window was open, or the kitchen exhaust fan turned on and the location of the refrigerator will be interesting.

Am I the only one curious about the panic inducing statements coming from government?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The Hotpoint was just the initial source and the firemen were on site to extinguish it. The only problem Hotpoint could have, I think, was if they were aware of a fire issue with that product, and did nothing. The location of the fridge is adjacent to the stove and approximately 4'-5' from the window, which may have been open. This is shown on one of the floor plans. I'll see if I can dig up the drawing. My little bot downloaded about 60 files from the one website.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

2
This BBC News article has some pointed views on the state of the regulatory regime.

Lots to say about how binding the detailed regulations are, how far you get to choose your inspectors and the routes you can choose if you don't want to comply with the detailed regulations.

Don't know whether it happens across the world, but politicians of all colours here have got into the habit of using "improving choice" as a powerful argument to justify all manner of controversial policies.

A.



RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot,

Some interesting analysis above - thank you, it has been quite educational for me.

I can't agree with your remark "That said, by British Standards specification, the power cord for most UK refrigerators are undersized for the current the draws when the motor starts." because that situation applies to virtually all motors throughout industry - cables are sized to withstand the starting current for the starting period, but they are neither able to nor required to carry the starting current indefinitely, and protection would operate long before that point. The same would apply to the plug-top fuse on the end of the appliance cord. Most refrigerators would have a 3A or 5A fuse, and the appliance cord would typically be 0.5mm² or 0.75m², both of which are adequately protected by either of those fuselink sizes.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK (Electrical)

Thanks Scotty, I did actually read up on the cord size/fuse ratio. But I'm also wondering about damaged induced as a result of the lack of power and how such an appliance later deals with a power surge. Normally an appliance that is under powered will begin to under perform and eventually just stop working. For the record, the Hotpoint was a 13 amp fridge.

I think, here in the US, lawsuits have conditioned manufactures to use a more robust power cord on major appliances. I don't know if I mentioned it here or elsewhere but increasingly the UK is encountering situations that come about because incoming populations are accustomed to using primitive solutions to what, for many has been a frequent problem in the old country. Hence doing something like running a heavy gauge of wire across the fuse gap, might strike them as a simple way to deal with KCTMO not solving the power problem in a reasonable time. Crazy to you or me but Old Country Know How to a handy guy with a little knowledge. The tenants described the lights flashing on & off or up & down intensely for weeks prior to the outage. So it comes down to duration and amperage. If they had "power spikes" as well as surges and the spikes were below a certain amperage, then the fuses would not blown. It takes 0.3 seconds for 100 amps to blow a 13 amp fuse. But how many blown fuses from power surges or spikes can an appliance take before it is compromised? But I labor the issue. I'm really adamant that the investigation into the cause of the fire, also look at the condition of the remaining building wiring and appliances, the repairs by KCTMO in May/June 2013 and also the quality of the power delivered to the rest of the area. Since the surges seemed to be something that occurred at night, the power delivered needs to be examined as well.

Do you think it likely that a tower flat built in the early 70's had ring circuits, possibly shared ring circuits? And what about aluminum wiring? What happens on a shared circuit if just as your refrigerator motor draws a heavy current, your neighbors washing machine turns off? Is it like the poor soul in the upstairs shower that gets fried when the downstairs shower is shutoff?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik (Structural)

Here is the original tender for bids on Grenfell Towers. I thought I had posted it but I can't find it in my posts. It has a short line about Novating the Architect.
Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks... I'd come across the article, but, didn't recall the source. Trying to get out of the habit of cutting and pasting without posting the source...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

They seem to be moving forward, from the guardian, "A recently retired court of appeal judge who specialised in commercial law has been appointed to head the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire. Sir Martin Moore-Bick, 70, only left the bench last December."

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/28/gr...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hi epoxybot,

It will be interesting to see what the investigation concludes about the origin of the fire. The electrical installation seems to be a cause for concern in its own right based on the problems described by tenants, regardless of the appliances connected to it. I have no idea if aluminium wiring was still in service; the tower is of the right age for it to be a credible possibility although I must say I'm surprised it has lasted this long. Could be ring or radial socket arrangement, I would guess ring but I don't do much work with domestic / light commercial installs. If individual units mutually affect each other's supply that would suggest problems may exist in the main distribution within the building as well as the final circuits in the apartments.

Our Electricity at Work Regulations require that wiring is inspected and tested as required to prevent danger. These regulations don't apply to domestic properties, except when the property is owned by one party and rented to another party as is the case here. From the problems described by the tenants it is hard to imagine that the wiring passed any inspection and it will be interesting to see how aggressively that line of enquiry is pursued.

I didn't mean to drag this thread way off into the weeds: regardless of the cause of the initial fire it is frightening that it was able to escalate in the way that it did.

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