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24-level building tower fire in West London 33

24-level building tower fire in West London

(OP)

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.

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

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

dik,

Have a look at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa... which I believe is the relevant part of the UK's Building Regulations. Not my field of expertise by any means, but Section 12 looks relevant.

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.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

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.

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
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

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."

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."

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

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.

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."

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.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Off to a good start...

from the Guardian, " Grenfell survivors barred from council meeting about fire... Kensington and Chelsea council says cabinet meeting will be held behind closed doors, with media also banned...

The only subject on the agenda is the fire, in which at least 80 people died. This will be an “oral item”, with no written report...

It is also not clear on what legal basis, if any, the council plans to bar the media. A council spokesman said he did not know, and asked the Guardian to send any queries by email. There was no immediate response to the email...

Its chief executive, Nicholas Holgate, resigned last week, after pressure from the communities secretary, Sajid Javid.

Calls have been made for Paget-Brown to follow, with London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, demanding the resignation of the entire council leadership."

and, an update, "A judge has ordered a London council to lift a ban on the media reporting on the first meeting of councillors to discuss the Grenfell Tower disaster, after a legal challenge by the Guardian and other media groups."

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Only the guilty have something to hide...

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I find it disappointing that they're turning this into a social/societal disaster by deciding 34(?) more multistory buildings have the same issues and have 'run for your lives' kicked everyone out of their homes. What is that, 10,000+ people needing a place to live for only... 3 years(?) in a an already over crowded city.

Has no one any common sense there?

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

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Common sense? All too uncommon these days.

However, the ENR report says there are only 4 UK buildings currently being evacuated, and they have serious internal safety issues.

It's easy to judge this sort of thing from afar.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Yes hokie... looking like a typical government boondoggle... May telling the people it will be a complete investigation and telling the judge to use a very limited scope... all too common, but, doesn't make sense...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This has the potential to be the architect's Piper Alpha: the moment when everything changes for a whole industry. I hope the judge leading this Public Enquiry is a thorough as Lord Cullen, and hopefully our awful government will not interfere with the independence of the Enquiry.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

"We are continuing to seize material on a daily basis and the number of companies and organisations that we know so far to have played a role in the refurbishment alone is over 60. - Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona McCormack - Metropolitan Police Lead Investigator. Link

In the ENR piece, OMNOS/CEP Architectural Facades Ltd. certainly did their best to distance themselves from playing a crucial role in the disaster. They, knew the material they were selling and they knew it would only work under very specific conditions and they knew the material was not technically approved for the application. In defense they cite the industry organization that the BBC exposed as using creative means to do an end-run on the desired intent of the safety standard; which was to rule out materials inherently prone to contribute to a fire. While it does seem that Harley Facade shopped for the best price for all the components of the external cladding, most contractors are not material experts, they habitually come up with cost saving solutions that may create a facsimile of the desired result but frequently need to be told, YOU CAN"T DO THAT. Omnis was formed in 2013 by the amalgamation of six companies, including CEP. If I was looking for an expert in the UK that had direct links to the project and should have known better, I know who I would be looking at. Mind you, they could have said, I won't sell you the Reynobond PE but I will sell you the Reynobond FR. How does £5K for the cheaper material stack up against a sale of over £1 million? I think most people would look at that £5K and know they would sleep better at night having done what was in the best interest of both the public and a company with a annual profit of more than £1 million.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Scotty... he's already stated his limited scope... I'll see if I can find the link.

Added: "Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the probe could be limited to the cause, how it spread, and preventing a future blaze."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (epoxybot)

How does £5K for the cheaper material stack up against a sale of over £1 million?

An example of the frustrations of trying to get anything done effectively within the scope of European public procurement regulations (or domestic laws enacting the Directives).

There is a paralysing fear that any complexity in the procurement, and in particular any spec change that might favour one bidder over another, will lead to a threat of legal challenge, bringing the project to a complete standstill for eighteen months. This fear has created a rampant culture of "lowest priced bid that isn't overtly noncompliant gets the job - and don't put anything that might disadvantage any of the potential bidders into the spec unless you can prove it's a truly inescapable element of the requirement". Under that regime, there is absolutely no incentive to add a £5k embellishment to the bid - that might be the £5k that means the £1m contract goes to your competitor.

A.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

That's why your bid conditions have to be very specific... and, I've often included the criteria for selection with the bid package.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

zeusfaber (Military) & dik (Structural)

It seem it was the Council of RBK&C that put pressure on KC-TMO to get the cladding cost to the minimum, in emails from June/July 2014. Rydon was "awarded" the project on Jun 2, 2014. Link

Here is a link to the actual window placement. The windows were, in fact marginally the same size as the original windows but they were moved outwards increasing the gap between the column & the spandrel panel by about 6 inches. Link

Studio E's Material Sample palette, including window Mfr.: Link

Conspicuously absent is any concise description of the actual ACM material. Did Studio E, do so because they didn't want to generate a document showing knowledge of the intended material on a company document or did they do so at the instruction of another parties?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The last two links don't go very far... looks like they have cleaned them out.

epoxybot... you appear to be as big a scrounger as I am... maybe bigger. More stars... Great catch. I have not been able to locate any approved shop drawings for the cladding. I'm still not able to determine if the Architect or the Council neck should be on the block... I'm not familiar with the British system.

Added: If they had only used the batt insulation shown on the drawings...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik (Structural)

Those last two links go to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea webpages that list other documents related to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment. Others on eng-tips mentioned they had difficulty with the link Ingenuity posted back on June 15th. I have not had a problem. You might try pasting the link in different browser.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks dik,

The judge himself seems to have concerns about the limited scope he has been permitted, and the government is under a lot of pressure to ensure this report addresses all the causes of the disaster. Conservative governments generally oppose increased government oversight and regulation, and I imagine that they are worried that a full in-depth review of all the contributory factors will highlight some major shortcomings of both the regulations and their enforcement.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Scotty

For what it's worth May has stated that the investigation would be thorough.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Her words are valuesless Dik, she is proving to be an awful prime minister with no credibility. I initially thought she was the least bad choice, and now I'm not so sure. UK politics is screwed.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Meh. I think we've got you beat for awhile, Scotty.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Seems to be catching... ours is no hell, either...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Looks like engineering may get a bad name; I'd been putting the blame on Architects. From the BBC,

"Newsnight has obtained confidential reports that help explain how flammable material has become more common on tall buildings.

Combustible cladding has been permitted based on reports arguing fires involving combustible aluminium panels would behave similarly to ones with non-combustible ceramic tiles.

Developers use them to persuade inspectors to sign off buildings.

Exova, the company that produced the reports, refused to comment.

The company, also known as Exova Warringtonfire, is a fire testing and engineering company."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

They sound like a supervisor I once had. OK, several of them over the years. Asking to pluck support for their position from thin air because they had already promised someone that a course of action would work, often ahead of schedule and always far below budget.

It usually involved the phrase, "Can you prove it won't work?" I would say, "Yes, let's do a test." This was met with "This isn't a science project. We're not funded so you can amuse yourself."

Needless to say, I don't work with people like that.

It's too bad that ethics isn't a marketable skill.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

"It's too bad that ethics isn't a marketable skill", pretty much sums it up.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Exova Warringtonfire was on the Grenfell Towers list of contractors/consultants, while Leadbitter was still involved in the planning stage. Grenfell was part & parcel of a much larger project being run by Leadbitter. So working for KCTMO

They are on the project planning routing list, bottom of the very last page. Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the Guardian, "In 2015, the brigade issued all 33 London councils with an audit tool to help them conduct a risk assessment, fearing that competition to bring down costs among contractors, project managers and planning inspection teams had led to high-rise refurbishments being passed off without adequate oversight."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I very much doubt it is an "accident" that the former residents are still being charged rent. The next day after the fire, the owners and everyone involved was on the phone with lawyers trying to figure out how much money they have to fight it and how much it will probably cost to get out of. The correct action by the former residents would be to file an insane number of small claims and chew up whatever still charging rent got them.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Around here if a rented place doesn't provide the "essentials" then the landlord must provide alternate housing until the original housing is restored to habitable status. "Essential" includes; heat, running water, electricity, sewage, and security. Somehow I doubt the existing structure is doing that for all those people.

They could be demanding alternate shelter which the landlord has to supply. If they stop paying rent than the shelter requirement probably ceases.

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

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A suddend demand for 60 buildings x 150 Units may be difficult to fill on a moment's notice... I suspect they have a real problem on their hands and are really unprepared for it.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the BBC,
"Sir Martin Moore-Bick's inquiry will "go right back to the construction of the tower" in the 1970s to examine warnings that may have been missed.

He said previously it was unlikely the inquiry would look at wider social issues in Kensington and Chelsea.

The remit of the inquiry will be decided by the prime minister.

Meanwhile, some of the survivors have written a letter to the prime minister with 12 demands for changes in the way the disaster is being handled.

These include:
Withdraw the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as chairman of the inquiry
Explain what consultation will take place before the inquiry's terms of reference are finalised
Guarantee that the inquiry chair will adopt wide terms of reference that goes beyond the narrow one outlined by his recent statement
Ensure the government co-ordinated response team is available 24 hours a day
Confirm that undocumented survivors will be given full UK citizenship

BMElawyers4Grenfell, a group of black and minority ethnic lawyers, wrote the letter on behalf of some of the survivors.
"

also from the BBC, "Cladding on 181 high-rise buildings across 51 local authority areas in England has failed fire safety tests, latest figures reveal."

Added: Itsmoked: maybe 3 times as many as noted in my earlier posting... and it could get worse.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I thought this would happen. The government completely misjudged public mood when they said the enquiry would be restricted in scope: the public perception is that the regulators have dropped the ball when it comes to enforcement and oversight, and on the face of it so far public perception doesn't seem far from the truth.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

How is it that this horrible accident (and the appalling state of disrepair of the electrical system in this building, which presumably is the initial - root cause of ignition) occurs in a council housing block which has an unusually high percentage of recent migrants when compared to the rest of the demographic in the RBKC? Just pure coincidence ? How did these people all get herded into this one council block in the first place ?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Some very expensive towers in the Middle East have also gone up in flames, though presumably more expensive windows prevented the fire from re-entering and setting fire to the interiors. As such it is more a matter of economics and lack of experience with external fires than is likely related to the immigrant status of the occupants. Given the fire department left the premises apparently satisfied with their initial job of extinguishing the inside fire and that other fires like this have not produced a multi-story inferno, it's a reach to think there is a conspiracy.

Recall that cast-iron bridges were built in quantity for some time before they started failing from fatigue and undetectable inclusions. Once that was sorted out the rate of failures (presumably) dropped. Then came the Tacoma Narrows bridge with a really interesting failure mode, and so on. Complacency and ignorance are contributors to spectacular failure.

It seems like this sort of failure can happen in a large number of buildings - at the least, previous assurances of fire-resistance have seemingly been eliminated. If true, then any of the other buildings might have gone up first.

Wrapping a building in easily ignited fuel cannot be excused by eliminating common ignition sources.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK: Like our own Prime Minister, I don't trust May any further than I could toss her... I thought the idea of the scope being vetted first was a good one. They seem to be missing 'who approved what, when, and why'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I agree with those questions, and perhaps the questions need to start even further back, like "How did our regulations become so weak that this design was ever proposed, let alone constructed?" which is definitely in a lot of peoples minds.

In my opinion UK codes - or more specifically the adopted European Norms in the guise of BS EN standards - seem to have become less prescriptive over time compared to the older British Standards and now leave a lot of room for judgement and (mis)interpretation because they are full of increasingly complex methods of describing things in a way which is difficult to apply to the real world. By contrast the handful of US codes I've worked with - mainly power generation, with US manufacturers selling into the Middle East where my employer was the Owner's Engineer - are a lot more prescriptive than the equivalent EN codes. Generally the US codes are easier to follow than ours because they are fairly explicit in their requirements.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

@ScottyUK:

The issue of prescriptive vs interpretative codes is a thorny one. If you want to promote innovation, design / building Codes need to allow for a degree of subjective assessment and interpretation, and this will require "experts" to ensure the intent is satisfied. If you stick with prescriptive codes, then all designs will use the same "tried and tested" materials and methods of construction, and end up pretty much looking the same.

It's early days in the investigation, and I hope the Inquiries will determine the real root cause, but it seems to me that the core problem at Grenfell was a joint failure by the designers, specifiers, suppliers and installers: they all seem to have forgotten the underlying principles of preventing spread of fire and smoke, and they introduced a new path of fire attack (from the outside in). This is the biggest mystery to me: how can a building cladding system be designed and installed where none of the parties apparently had a fundamental understanding of the principles of fire engineering?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A plausible course of events is:

KCLBC (landlord) wants to upgrade building

Hapless designer draws up an external cladding system using zinc cladding, an airgap, and a fairly non flammable insulation layer

Design is accepted/signed off by KCLBC Planning section

A firm bids to build that design and wins the contract.

KCLBC (landlord) asks for cost reductions

Winning firm suggests aluminium/PE composite non FR cladding, saving UKP300000 over zinc

KCLBC Planning section signs off change

Winning firm installs signed off design.

KCLBC Building Inspectors confirm it is built to the design.

And that is why KCLBC's meetings are closed door with no minutes issued.

Tin foil hat /off/.

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I doubt that a composite zinc cladding would have given a better result than the composite aluminum actually used. And the insulation was as specified, I think.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

hokie66, I'm guessing the zinc wasn't composite in Greg's example.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Don't know, but the zinc coated steel would have a much higher melting point... the aluminum would melt at 700C or so... The heat would have quickly destroyed this and allowed the insulation to melt and/or burn, contributing to the consumables.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Here's my source for that bit of the story

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40453054

"Cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower during its refurbishment was changed to a cheaper version, documents obtained by the BBC suggest.
Documents show the zinc cladding originally proposed was replaced with an aluminium type, which was less fire resistant, saving nearly £300,000."

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

jhardy1,

I agree with your observations re. prescriptive vs interpretative codes. My work is largely process plant / power plant rather than buildings, so the prescriptive codes possibly suit these risk-averse industries with established technologies better than the interpretive ones.

The problems with regulatory oversight go back much much further than the current government, but it happened on their watch so they will likely take whatever blame is apportioned. The cynic in me says that they're terrified that a damning report might be the final nail in their electoral coffin given the fragile grip they have on power.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Sorry Greg... I read the post as Winnipeg...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from the BBC, "A taskforce will be sent in to take over parts of Kensington and Chelsea Council in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The council has been heavily criticised for its handling of the disaster on 14 June that killed at least 80 people.

Both the council leader and chief executive have resigned as a result.

Now the government has ordered a taskforce to take over the housing department, as well as other council operations."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

As an Brit who has spent the last 40 years working in North America, and presently visiting the old country , perhaps my observations will Add something to this discussion. Anyone based in australia or north america probably has no comprehension of how badly things have deteriorated in the UK in the last decades. I am absolutely amazed about how normal project management skills have not been applied in this case. The normal engineering ethics basic of " protect the public" seems to be totally missing here. Everything seems to have been based on cost reduction. Field inspections have dropped dramatically, lower cost materials approved without being examined by knowledgeable personnel , installation of sprinklers examined but dropped from further consideration because they would not contribute to the visual appearance of the buildings exterior. The whole thing is now being driven by the politics of a**e covering and responsibility avoidance. The so called investigation shows all signs of being a whitewash.

The fact of the matter is the occupants of this tower were very low income persons with a high percentage being immigrants from third world countries who had previously expressed severe reservations about their living areas , whose complaints were ignored by those responsible. Does anyone here really think justice will prevail??

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

jhardy1 (Structural)

"This is the biggest mystery to me: how can a building cladding system be designed and installed where none of the parties apparently had a fundamental understanding of the principles of fire engineering?"

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a lack of understanding of the fundamental principles of fire engineering, I think there is a culture throughout the process and it includes the local councils, curtainwall construction sector/consultants. contractor & project management firms. The email from KCTMO’s project manager sent to Artelia, its cost consultant, about cladding prices. It said said: “We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow at 8.45am!” Rock Feilding-Mellen is chairman of Kensington and Chelsea’s housing committee. Artelia replied with three options including that “fully cassette-fixed cladding” would save £293,368. On July 1st 2014, IGI Taylor the town planner for RBKC prepared a submittal to the RBKC Planning Dept. for approval. It seems the RBKC Council waited until the 11th hour to ask for "incentives" to award Rydon Construction the contract. The contract was awarded to Rydon the day after the submittal, on 2 July, 2014. It is RBKC that chose which of the 3 cladding options to go with. That said EXOVA WarringtonFire was a consultant to KCTMO for the greater Lancaster Estate redevelopment project; which included the Sports Center & School.

Ref: dik (Structural) post on 1 Jul 17 05:35

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

miningman (Mining)

Even though a D-Notice has not been issued, there is in some aspect, the equivalent. Those involved in the first response & aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Fire are under Coroner's Restrictions and then the site itself is restricted and being walled off with solid metal sheet fencing.

Given the estimate, that recovery will not be complete until the end of 2017 and coroner's investigation, longer still, it might as well be a D-Notice.

There is a general description of the Fire Fighting response on Firehouse.com Forum. Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Epoxy bot ,I accept your D notice analogy ( altho many here will not know what that is) but it seems to me that it is ScottyUK who is making the most pertinent observations. Where is the engineer or architect who stood up to state " this is dangerous, I wont sign off on this" . In my career in underground mining , I have only very rarely constructed to codes and standards. On things like fire protection , explosives , etc , somehow we pass the necessary knowledge to the next generation. Certainly the local mines act provides the absolute minimum standard ( and that can vary geographically) but we aspire to "best achievable practice" and constantly challenge ourselves and each other as to "is there a better way to do this?" and cost is very much secondary. In my opinion todays focus on meeting standards , without critical thought , goes a long way to explaining many of society's woes these days.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Catch my posting of 1 Jul 17 05:35; it may be that engineering is part of the problem...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

miningman (Mining)

I guess we will have to wait & see just how many other structures have the same combination of Celotex RS5000 & Reynobond PE. With two large companies like Arconic/Alcoa & Celotex; there are surely to be more. If an architect or engineer were presented with a list of 20 other buildings where the two materials has been used in a similar applications, they would have to be quite knowledgeable on the subject to not feel somewhat compelled to accept such a submittal. Finding themselves in a defensive position. Something has gone terribly wrong with the concept of Unconscionable in the UK Building Design community. Worse, the powers that be in government, don't have the good sense to realize they are completely out of their depth at making determinations about building safety and should stick to choosing colors they like.

Having just read up on how fires are dealt with, one of the primary concerns for the crew at the point of attack, is reducing the volume of smoke and heat in the affected area. Venting the fire, as close to the fire as possible is a standard tactic. Yet, it can be argued that, the use of Polyethylene ACM cladding, completely changes the manner in which firefighters can extinguish a fire in a dwelling. Not being able to vent a fire for fear it will set the exterior on fire, greatly increases the danger for the firefighter and the ability to contain the fire to one unit in a multi-family dwelling. It is entirely possible the London Fire Brigade vented the Grenfell Tower fire and the flames set the bottom edge of the 4th floor ACM cassette on fire. On the whole there is comparatively little exterior damage to Flat 16 where the fire originated.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik,
I don't know what kind of panel Greg was considering, but the architect's drawings did show "zinc composite panels". Apparently, some of these are made with zinc on one side, aluminum on the other, with other stuff in the middle.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hokie66... I don't know what zinc coated composite panels are (unlikely pure zinc; you can get zinc panelling, but it is 3 to 5 times the price of prefinished HDG panelling, but I assume they are pre-finished HDG steel cladding... different terms used are a bit of a problem. The difference in what was spec'd and what was used may have introduced a bit of a delay, but, may not likely have stopped the fire. The real problem is the large air gap (chimney) and the 6" (150mm) flammable and toxic polyiso insulation attached to the original concrete precast panels. This was a terrible choice of materials and the people that have signed off on this have killed 80 people.

"Worse, the powers that be in government, don't have the good sense to realize they are completely out of their depth at making determinations about building safety and should stick to choosing colors they like."

The powers that be, may have been acting in good faith...

As I noted in my posting above to miningman,

"Combustible cladding has been permitted based on reports arguing fires involving combustible aluminium panels would behave similarly to ones with non-combustible ceramic tiles.

Developers use them to persuade inspectors to sign off buildings.

Exova, the company that produced the reports, refused to comment.

The company, also known as Exova Warringtonfire, is a fire testing and engineering company."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I saw that. I don't know how you can compare metal faced panels with ceramic tiles. Two entirely different animals.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hokie66... I wouldn't have made the statement, even after a bunch of beer... the guy's an 'expert'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the Guardian,
" The Grenfell inquiry will be a stitch-up...

We don’t allow defendants in court cases to select the charges on which they will be tried. So why should the government set the terms of a public inquiry into its own failings? We don’t allow criminal suspects to vet the trial judge. Why should the government approve the inquiry’s chair?

Even before the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has begun, it looks like a stitch-up, its initial terms of reference set so narrowly that government policy remains outside the frame. An inquiry that honours the dead would investigate the wider causes of this crime. It would examine a governing ideology that sees torching public protections as a sacred duty.

Let me give you an example. On the morning of 14 June, as the tower blazed, an organisation called the Red Tape Initiative convened for its prearranged discussion about building regulations. One of the organisation’s tasks was to consider whether rules determining the fire resistance of cladding materials should be removed for the sake of construction industry profits."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Who would you prefer to lead the inquiry...The Guardian?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

You may get a better report, than the one by the appointed government agent... but, I really don't know. It's a political hot potato right now and, now, is the best time to establish a frame of reference for the inquiry. In this fashion, the news agencies may be of some value.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Looking at the fuel load of both the Reynobond ACM Polyethylene panels and the Celotex RS5000 Polyisocyanurate foam insulation, the Polyethylene has a possible fuel contribution 3.8 times more than the foam insulation. A 3mm x 1m x 1m sheet of Low Density Polyethylene weighs 2.85kg. 150mm of Celotex RS5000 weighs 4.98kg per square meter. The fuel consumption of Polyethylene can approach 100%, while the residual weight from combustion of Polyisocyanurate is 85%. So for every 2.85kg of Polyethylene available for consumption there was 0.747kg of insulation.

What is interesting is that neither of these materials could have behaved separately as they did together. Removing an external flame source from ignited polyethylene, the flame retracts to just above the surface of the the leading edge of thermal decomposition. Along this edge, there is a pronounced blue component to the flame, denoting efficient fuel consumption & pronounced "convective" heat generation. Of the 3 types of heat that contribute to a fire; Conductive, Convective & Radiant, conductive heating is the worst. The conductive heat released of Red Oak is only a third of its total caloric heat value, whereas Polyethylene releases almost half its total heat in the form of conductive heat. Add back to the Polyethylene the original flame source at Grenfell Tower and confine it to a chimney like space and it creates very suitable conditions for the Celotex to ignite.

What makes the insulation special, is that once its initial resistance to burning is overcome and the Isocyanate component burns, it releases the other main component of the Polyisocyanurate foam, Polyols. The fire generated by polyols is fast and "vigorous" and like the polyethylene produce large amounts of heat. The burning fridge at Grenfell provided the flame source to ignite the polyethylene and the burning polyethylene created the right conditions for the fire resistance of the insulation to be overcome, where by the burning insulation provided the polyol charged flame that kept the polyethylene in near absolute fuel mode. Throw in the air gap and the aluminum for a 'conductive heat' component, pre-heat the polyethylene ACM in advance of the flames and it really was a worst case scenario. Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The UK Govt has ordered full scale tests of representative cladding/insulation combinations. Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

and the manner of assembly?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

from epoxybot's link, "The extra tests will help landlords decide on any remedial action needed to make buildings safer." Shouldn't that read, "The extra tests will help landlords decide on any remedial action needed to make buildings safe." I'm always afraid of how things are written... 'safer' could be supplying each apartment unit with a fire extinguisher.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

"Safer" is the word I would use. Nothing is ever truly "safe". (Nothing can ever be safer than the idiots using it, we keep trying to make things idiot-proof but they keep making better idiots, etc.)

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Good point... I guess they have to qualify the meaning of 'safer'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (epoxybot)

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.

That sounds like an open neutral. With no neutral reference, the voltage would increase above 230 based on the loading on the various phases. A lightly loaded phase could approach 400V. Nearly everything electrical would fail under those conditions, with a great possibility of them bursting into flames.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Somewhere fairly close (in electrical terms) to the service intake given the number of locations affected. I can easily imagine that inspection of the intake and main distribution gear would be in the 'too difficult, too disruptive' pile of jobs which never get done. It's all too easy to ignore electricity and electrical equipment when it is behaving itself.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

While it was the 40 units on the upper floors that sustained loss of appliances and other electrical devices, the power surges & brown-outs affected all the units. I just wonder how many remaining appliances, after the fire can be shown to have degraded capacitors in them from KCTMO's negligence. The particulars of the cladding and probably more so, the column cladding meant this building was a disaster waiting to happen but I think it is important to know if KCTMO "lit the match" by failing to adequately resolve the buildings electrical problems.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I guess there is a down side to using polyiso, from the BBC,

"At least one survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire was diagnosed with cyanide poisoning, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Medical discharge papers show 12-year-old Luana Gomes was treated for the effects of the highly toxic gas, which may have been released by burning of insulation or plastics during the fire.

Her sister and mother were also treated for risk of cyanide poisoning.

Mrs Gomes was seven months pregnant at the time of the blaze. Her unborn baby died after the fire.

It has previously been reported that three Grenfell survivors were treated with a cyanide antidote but this is the first confirmation of a cyanide poisoning diagnosis.

Andreia Gomes and her daughters were placed in medically induced comas when they were admitted to Kings College Hospital."

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Looks like it was known you shouldn't use solid foam with combustible panels.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/13/gr...

The comment about them being 30% cheaper clearly won. Ditto the cheaper outer panels.

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,

"Dozens of residents of Grenfell Tower suffered electricity power surges so strong their appliances malfunctioned, overheated and emitted smoke a few years before the fire, it has emerged.

Documents seen by the BBC reveal how 25 residents claimed compensation from the council following the surges in 2013.

Some say electricity problems persisted into the months before June's fire."

I think I'll just add new info to the one message.

From the BBC,
"Burning cladding on Grenfell Tower would have released 14 times more heat than a key government safety test allows, the BBC has learned.

Energy emitted from the cladding and insulation would have been equivalent to burning 51 tonnes of pinewood, University of Leeds research suggests.

The cladding's plastic core would have burned "as quickly as petrol", it said.

The contractors who fitted the cladding and insulation said they both passed all regulations."

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Sounds pretty classic neutral loss result. A bad connection would dish that up.

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

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

An example of how the council of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) undertake matters of fire safety: After prolonged complaints & protest by Estate residents & more specifically the Grenfell Tower & the neighboring finger blocks of Hurstway Walk, Testerton Walk and Barandon Walk, accompanied by fires at two other Estate Towers; the property manager KCTMO, acquiesced to hiring a Fire Inspector to perform an Fire Risk audit. The results were devastating for KCTMO and led to a program of estate property by property inspections via the London Fire Brigade (LFB). A program was established based on High, Intermediate & Low fire risk. What the LFB made plan was that the bulk of the KCTMO properties that were for rent or lease in multiple occupant buildings with interior corridors, was the lacked of 30 minute, self-closing Fire Resistant Entry Doors to secure fire & smoke compartmentalization.

This was a great concern to the RBKC, not because people were at risk but because replacing all the doors was going to be costly and the time frame required by the LFB didn't allow for procrastination & creative budgeting. People within the council & from KCTMO postulated that maybe the door to a Flat was the occupants responsibility, regardless of the fact that they don't actually own the flat. The wording used to justify this advantageous position was that the occupant had "Control" of the door.

When one considers other things the occupant has "Control" over, the toilet & faucets, the windows, doorknobs, SMOKE DETECTORS etc., their reasoning becomes Chuckle-Headed to say the least. But that is the declaration made by the RBKC council and followed up by KCTMO with pressing notifications to the tenants. What will the council & KCTMO do when on the day a tenant moves house and they remove THEIR door, frame & threshold, leaving the flat open to the comings and goings of the curious & needy. This is an excellent example of just how self-serving and intent on having everything go their way, the RBKC & KCTMO really behave.

When you consider that this was all going on parallel to the 4 years of planning & work carried out on the Grenfell Tower Refurbishment; with almost monthly meets or inspections by the LFB and frequent updates to the RBKC council, the idea that Fire Safety & Risk was somehow missed by KCTMO is unfathomable.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

and those responsible should be charged with criminal negligence causing death.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Before fire entered the flats at Grenfell Tower, smoke was seeping through the window casements. In this video the "white' smoke isn't captured by the camera within the flat because of the well lit interior side of the window but the double glazed window creates a filtering effect that reveals the smoke penetration, via reflection on the second, outer pane. Link

So why was smoke entering the flats from the window casement surround? I suspect an air gap was left unsealed when the horizontal surface mounted aluminum L brackets were installed against the exposed aggregate spandrel panels. The new windows were reset outward onto the aluminum L brackets, mounted top & bottom, from the older window's original placement on the concrete spandrel by approximately 8 inches. Add in that the concrete spandrel panels would have had a chamfered edge along with the very rough surface texture of an exposed aggregate (large aggregate) and the matter of fire & smoke compartmentalization becomes a problem, not just side to side but top & bottom. The gap between the window angles should have been filled with non sag cementitious compound. Rough numbers, about 600 cubic feet for all four sides.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It's nice the fellow had the foresight to photograph the ingress of smoke.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The best early video footage of the Grenfell Tower fire is found on Chox Noris YouTube page, starting at 22 minutes into the fire on the East facade. Link These are truly worth a viewing to see how the fire spread.

Sky News provides the best aerial video, including a breif view of the East facade 4th floor, post fire: Link

Tom Clarke, Science Editor at UK Channel 4 has some of the best fire investigation reports. Channel 4 works for me here in the US over the internet but you may have to try different browsers. Link

Channel 4's total Grenfell coverage is here: Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I still have questions about the Electrical supply at Grenfell Tower and hopefully someone, ScottyUK, can enlighten me.

BACKGROUND
Extract from an email sent on 13th May 2013 by Shah Ahmed, Chair of the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association, to Robert Black at KCTMO and various RBKC councillors and TMO officers:
“Continuous Power Surges in Grenfell Tower".

There have been two weeks of power surges in the building, most notably in the early hours of the morning and throughout the evening and night time. Electronic apparatus are seriously affected by these surges. Computers are turned on and off; lights continually flicker becoming very dim and extremely bright in the space of a few seconds.
On 11th May 2013 at 9:05pm we had numerous power surges in the space of a minute, and in that process my computer and monitor literally exploded with smoke seeping out from the back and the smell of burnt electronics filled our entire computer. My monitor also fused at the same time. When I called the TMO out of hours service the standard textbook response was given to us that I was the first one to report such a problem and I was made to feel like a fool reporting such an issue, which resulted in years of data being lost forever.
Please note if the power surges continue at Grenfell Tower, it would be very dangerous and costly because it is interfering with electric and electronic items in the household, including the telephone line, television, fridge, washing machine, computer etc”.

Grenfell Action Group Blog - "GRENFELL TOWER – FROM BAD TO WORSE" Despite the fact that these dangerous and highly alarming incidents were reported to the KCTMO on 11th May no serious action was taken until the problems escalated out of control on 29th May 2013.
• Decisive action was only taken yesterday after highly distressed residents descended en masse on the estate office to demand action. They had woken to find smoke issuing from various electrical appliances in their homes, including the light fixtures, and descended in panic to the estate office to demand help and assistance. Emergency electricians who attended later in the day were finally, it seems, able to identify the source of the problem. An emergency temporary electrical by-pass supply has been provided and the necessary follow–up works will be carried out in the near future.
• Grenfell Tower residents are demanding an emergency meeting with RBKC and TMO officers to fully explain what went wrong with the electrical supply, and why the TMO failed to respond with appropriate urgency. This meeting should be arranged as a matter of urgency.
• Officers attending the meeting should be prepared to explain why electrical engineers who ordered the planned power cut in Grenfell Tower between 08:30-17:30 on Saturday 18th May failed to identify and rectify a serious and dangerous fault in the electrical supply at that time.

16 July 2013 - THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA - HOUSING AND PROPERTY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
As a matter arising related to A5, Mr Maddison reassured the Vice Chairman that expertise from qualified electrical engineers had been used from the outset in establishing the cause of the Grenfell Tower power surge. The officers’ view remained that it had been caused by an arced incoming mains cable.

A fault has been identified on the incoming mains supply and a repair has been carried out to a faulty cable. There have been no further surges since this repair was completed and further tests have been carried out on the mains.
• Ongoing monitoring of the incoming electrical supply and we are investigating whether there are other factors that have contributed to the surges.
• Full renewal of the rising electricity main is planned to commence on 7th July. This work will include the installation of surge protection to give additional protection to the block.

In a later report to the council - Mr Maddison reported that Zurich Insurance, the company used by the TMO, had reviewed all claims for damage and had confirmed that the TMO had taken appropriate steps to ensure the power supply infrastructure was in a reasonable state and the TMO therefore, had not been negligent and was not liable for loss or damage to tenants’ equipment.
TMO officers had met residents and advised them by letter to claim for damage via their own home contents insurance. As a token of goodwill and in compensation for disruption, a payment of £200 had been made to each tenant. Mr Maddison said the TMO recognized this might not cover the cost of lost equipment.

QUESTIONS
Based on descriptions given by the residents of smoking fixtures and appliances, including Washing Machines & Refrigerators AND KCTMO's Mr Maddison, assertion that the electrical fault was identified as 'arching cables from the incoming mains'; is it just as, or more likely that the damage to appliances was the result of under supply as over supply? While power spikes might cycle too fast to trip the built-in fused plugs provided on plug-in appliances, wouldn't a persistent over supply have tripped the fuses, whereas an under supply would result in a persistent draw and heating?

I am assuming full or partial start capacitor damage could arise from such events but is this reasonable? And short of testing the capacitor on every large appliance, is there some other means of assuring that a still functional appliance isn't a damaged appliance & a fire waiting to happen?

Very Speculative Questions
When KCTMO's Mr Maddison informed the HOUSING AND PROPERTY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE that "Full renewal of the rising electricity main is planned"' wouldn't this indicate that the electrical problem was located on the property-owner side of the electrical supply?

If the electrical failure was on the owner side of the supply, and regardless of prior efforts to locate the source of the electrical hazard, which failed; doesn't it still remain the Landlord/Owner as the party responsible for delivering well regulated power to the junction box in each apartment and hence, for the damaged property? Fortuitously, Zurich Insurance was no longer the insurer when Grenfell Tower burned but if the Landlord/Owner and vis/vis Zurich Insurance snookered the residents on their insurance claims, and in so doing, failed to perform due diligence, leaving crippled appliances & long-term fire hazards in place, wouldn't Zurich even now be liable? EXAMPLE: When earthquakes strikes and liquor bottles fall to the floor, some but not all will break but since ingesting even slivers of shattered glass is a safety hazard, the insurance company compensates for all the liquor, broken or otherwise. So did KCTMO commit insurance fraud by omission of particulars to Zurich or did KCTMO & Zurich commit insurance fraud by Zurich writing KCTMO a get-out-of-jail-free-card? Does the UK Insurance Industry really decide Insurance Claims strictly on the basis of Negligence? It certainly wasn't an act of god. Maybe Gremlins but you can't blame it on Jinnis. If for instance on May 29, 2013 multiple flats in Grenfell Tower had gone up in flames because of the catastrophic electrical failure and people had died, would Zurich Insurance still argue that KCTMO bore no liability?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot,

The electrical fault has all the indications of a high impedance or lost neutral connection. The net effect of this failure mode is that the single-phase supply to each unit, which is derived from a 3-phase intake, is no longer fixed at 400/√3 = 230V. The voltage appearing at the individual units could range somewhere between zero and 400V, and the exact voltage is determined by how the overall loads on each phase interact with each other. Electronic loads would typically burn out / catch fire fairly rapidly when faced with a gross over-voltage. Rotating loads such as motors would probably tolerate if for a bit longer prior to blowing a line fuse. The problem isn't confined to capacitors by any means.

I can't answer any of the questions about insurance and liability for legacy problems.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK, " The voltage appearing at the individual units could range somewhere between zero and 400V, and the exact voltage is determined by how the overall loads on each phase interact with each other."

Is the voltage a sinusoid from zero to +/- 400? or that the voltage delivered could range from zero to 400 (I assume +/-?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks ScottyUK,

I have since been reading about English Tort Law and it does appear that Negligence rather than Responsibility is a requirement for liability in the UK. So long as KCTMO hired a qualified Electrical Contractor to troubleshoot the fault, regardless of failing to identify the problem, they exercised due diligence and are not liable. I think in the US it could go quite differently, considering more than a 1/3 of the flats were affected by some kind of loss and deferred maintenance had been going on for years.

It is not widely discussed but more and more private power generation when supplied to the grid, especially PV systems are proving problematic in the UK and power surges are one of the consequences.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

3
Hi epoxybot,

I'm from a generation background and I'm not a great believer in embedded generators replacing central generating plant, but I don't see this as being a problem on the generation or transmission grids. This is almost certainly a problem within the building - either the main distribution LV infrastructure, or potentially with the building's LV substation if the building has a dedicated intake from the HV utility system.

Dik,

The voltage will be sinusoidal, but it's magnitude is determined by how the connected loads interact with each other and that will vary as loads change (i.e. things switch on and off, fuses blow, things go bang, etc). It's probably easier to explain with a couple of diagrams. They're not perfect for the task but I'll try to explain around them:

In a healthy electrical system the line-line and line-neutral voltages are defined by the transformer which comprises of three windings, each of 230V but with 120° of angular (time) displacement between them. This angular displacement results in there being 400V between any two lines, but 230V between any line and the neutral point. In the UK, residential supplies are connected between one line and the neutral point.

If we can assume that all the loads are connected to the neutral, but that the neutral conductor breaks or develops a bad joint somewhere near the transformer. The voltage between lines is still 400V, because that's determined by the transformer windings. Without the connection back to the transformer neutral point there nothing to force the line-neutral voltage to be 230V. The voltage between line and neutral will be determined by the relative impedances of the loads connected between each line and the neutral, so a heavily loaded phase will see the line-neutral voltage collapse, while lightly loaded phases could see something approaching the full line-line voltage of 400V.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (epoxybot)

did KCTMO & Zurich commit insurance fraud by Zurich writing KCTMO a get-out-of-jail-free-card?

Zurich's response wasn't really a get-out-of-jail-free-card. It was more a judgement that KCTMO had a defensible position so if they refused to pay out against the claims, the courts were unlikely to rule against them. Don't like like the mindset, but can't really see anything fraudulent about it.

A.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

4
Scotty's correct diagrams may be a little confusing due to the three phase aspect so I've simplified them to a single phase situation.

A normal single phase installation with each phase being exactly half of the 440V supply because of the center tapped neutral.

With a faulty neutral often caused by a loose connection or corrosion or both you no longer have a rigid half of the 440V across the two loads. Instead you have something....worse. You have various voltages depending on the individual loads connected at any moment.

You can see the light bulb will take a beating. Typically this would just be a bright flash then the circuit would be open. However if the bulb was instead something with real mass like a small motor it would heat up in a few seconds to a fire starting temperature.

Picture the complexity of a large apartment complex where perhaps a thousand devices are in the mix. You typically get less of a voltage difference just because of the averaging of a great many typical loads. What you get though is perhaps 180V and 260V which can actually be more insidious with overheating and fire starting as it can allow things to overheat slowly enough that circuit breakers fail to trip as they would with a large overload.

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

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks Keith, that hopefully makes what i was trying to describe a bit clearer.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

It certainly does, and a LPS for Keith!

"Schiefgehen wird, was schiefgehen kann" - das Murphygesetz

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks Keith ("itsmoked") - that's a great description of faulty multi-phase power for non-electrical engineers like myself. (I had to do a bit of power and electronics as part of my undergraduate Civil / Structural Engineering degree; unfortunately, I am colour blind, so more often than not, I would be hooking up the wrong wires and / or using incorrect resistors, so most of my lab work ended with a release of the magic blue smoke.) These days, I stick strictly to low voltage hobby electronics (< 12 V), and I use a multi-meter to test every component before hooking up the power supply.)

The litany of professional mis-management at Grenfell Tower is just gob-smacking. It seems quite likely that defective power could have been a causative factor in the initial fire, and the on-going issues suggest that it was only a matter of time before a significant apartment fire broke out. This in itself is bad enough, but compounded with the choice and design of cladding system, a small manageable fire quickly became a catastrophe.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks ScottyUK and Keith... I can now see what you're talking about. I didn't realise the open circuit with the neutral could have that effect.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Yes! Thanks ScottyUK, itsmoked. This was very helpful.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot: did you understand what they were talking about before you saw the circuit sketches? I didn't...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

But it's so basic, doesn't everybody understand....

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

To make matters even worse than you can imagine them to be, read a few days ago that these muppets at RBKC replaced some parts of the PIR insulation with cheaper Kooltherm phenolic based insulation from Kingspan, which apparently has no fire resistance rating at all.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

davidbeach... I do now, sparky.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

2
Yes, if you disconnect your neutral you can make tea four times faster. Sounds like a good deal.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

dik (Structural)

No, I did not. If I were a freshly minted electrical service repair technician though, my take away would be that if someone is reporting power surges, because that is what they can see with their eyes, then when a neutral fault is found, it also means that other electrical apparatus were experiencing..., what does one call it? Brown power aka low voltage? It is a critical, missed detail of the May 2013 power failure. In earlier discussions here with ScottyUK regarding the Fused Plugs in the UK, I struggled with how a Power Surge could result in the slow degradation of an appliance leading to a fire, brown outs made more sense. Now I know that power surges & brown outs happen simultaneously during a neutral fault.

itsmoked sketch made all the difference. It seems to confirm my thoughts that more widespread damage could have taken place in 2013, more than just to the 45 flats on the upper floors but via a "slow burn". It just wasn't catastrophic to other appliances..., yet. I really appreciate ScottyUK and itsmoked informing us on the UK power grid. While there has been a great deal of reporting on the Power Surges at Grenfell Tower in 2013, there hasn't been any real discussion of how the 2013 electrical problems may have contributed to the initial fire that destroyed the tower. I thought it worthy of examination here. Perhaps the recommendation in the 2008 Master Plan for Lancaster West to demolish Grenfell Tower was a better plan after all. Link

So the next question for ScottyUK & itsmoked is, how likely is it that an electrical contractor replacing the electrical riser at Grenfell, doesn't at some point tell KCTMO's Mr. Maddison, speculatively or assertively, that the whole building needs to be rewired. In my experience a contractor never fails to point out additional work if it really is needed.

I had somewhat down played witness statements because some were just bad reporting, some activist reporting and others are probably the result of language barriers but embellishments have also taken place. For instance, Maryann Adem on the Forth Floor, Flat 14 (one bedroom flat East facade/next door)“The fire was small in the kitchen. I could see it because the flat door was open. There was no alarm.” - Truth: There is absolutely no means possible to see the refrigerator from the flat entry door. So does she mean from the kitchen opening? Is this a language barrier/simplifying or is she embellishing? A number of Grenfell Tower victims have since embellished their version of events. Being an investigator, taking witness statements must be a very frustrating job.

Sajad Jamalvatan, a biomechanical engineering student, moved into one of the newly constructed "Hidden Homes" flats on the third floor of Grenfell Tower in August 2016; saying the newly installed electrical meter often made a strange buzzing sound at night and constantly had to be topped up with money. "I went to the basement once and I saw a huge mess in the basement. So much wiring." Is Sajad just taking his place in the limelight or did the noise from the electrical meter actually indicate there was still an electrical problem at Grenfell. After ScottyUK & itsmoked input, I'm now curious as to the proximity of his 3rd floor flat to flat 16, one floor above where the fire started.

All the electrical problems were late evening to dawn, when the electrical grid has a surplus of available power. The 'problem' could have been well within supplier & building code standards, except not for a building that was badly in need of rewiring. If the Council had known that Grenfell Tower needed rewiring along with all the other needed upgrades, it probably would have meant the demolition of Grenfell Tower, no matter the political fall out.

I wonder if the 2013 electrical problems will be part of the Public Inquiry. KCTMO's Mr Maddison's statement to the Council that a problem was found with the "Incoming Main" is suggestive that the problem was on London's UKPN supplier side. Maybe he was telling the Council what they wanted to hear. If not, then it is somewhat misleading. A more comprehensive explanation might have resulted in a closer examination of the building wide wiring by the refurbishment consultants, Max Fordham and concluded the wiring was at the end of its service life. Many of those who are demanding a wider Public Inquiry, want the relationship of the RBKC Council and KCTMO investigated on grounds of a more political nature but what about how the residents of Grenfell Tower may have contributed to the loss of life during the fire?

Grenfell did have a Floor by Floor Fire Alarm system. Soon after it was commissioned, there were incidents when the fire alarm was activated because a tenant had left their flat to smoke a cigarette but instead of going downstairs & outside, they lit up in the common area on their floor. Smoking in the common area was setting off the common area smoke detector. The smoke detector signal, then shuts down all the boilers in the basement, feeding Grenfell Tower & the finger blocks of Lancaster West Estate and activates the positive air ventilation system. KCTMO also had a problem with youth who would hang out in the stairwells, sometimes wanting a dark place, they would purposefully damage the stairwell lighting. KCTMO had staff assigned to check stairwell lighting on a quarterly basis but some of the female estate managers reported being intimidated by Anti-Social elements and not being able to complete their surveys. Grenfell also had a problem with tenants dumping appliances & mattresses, etc (Fly-tipping)in the main lobby and around the premises. So it is fair to question if the reason the fire alarms/smoke detectors & emergency ventilation system didn't work as designed, has more to do with certain tenant "Modifications" than a failure by KCTMO.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epox; A surge or voltage rise easily provided by a faulty neutral could puncture insulation that then 'leaks current'. Typically very little current but often enough to trip GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter protection). The leakage can, over time, further damage the insulation system leading to either a short that typically gets detected by the circuit protection, but, can also be less than that needed to trip the protection but more than enough to reach ignition temperatures.

A 'sag' or 'brown-out' doesn't bother conventional incandescent lighting one bit but modern CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lighting) or LED lighting controllers can be damaged by low voltage. Modern lighting uses 'switching power supplies' (an efficient type of power controller). Switching supplies dutifully try to supply constant power to their loads and these supplies supply all computers, lighting, wall-warts, cord-warts, expensive refrigerators, speed controlled blowers, etc., etc.

Remembering: Power = Voltage x Current

When a switching supply's supply voltage drops it tries to make this up by drawing more current. However, the cost of all these electronics is a function of the current. More current requires larger silicon, larger silicon costs more, so designers optimize their product designs to use the smallest (cheapest) semiconductors which makes the devices considerably more susceptible to out-of-spec supply voltage damage.

If a brown-out lasts very long or a device is running hot at 'this moment' the low voltage will overheat the controller semiconductors and they'll fail.

Motors are also this same type of constant power device that will draw more current if the voltage drops resulting in rapid overheating. Overheating a motor results in reduced efficiency, future hotter running, and a shortened life.

Most devices have been 'listed' and demonstrably are supposed to be burn-out-able without causing fires. However, the testing regimes often don't take into account a product being run or subjected to unusual voltages so the actual failures caused in those cases are probably less understood and can lead to product fires.

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

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks for the reminder itsmoked. I know some of this has been discussed earlier in this thread and shamefully I am the one asking but I am not knowledgeable about electricity and some of what has been covered earlier has faded from my memory. I was, in fact just rereading the entire thread.

One really does have to read up on the bidding process in the UK & Europe. The Grenfell Tower Refurbishment contract was a Pre-qualified, Two Stage tender process, where the Design/Builder first provides a bid and their thinking & approach to carrying forth the Architects design at the price they bid. If the purchaser accepts the bid, there is an agreement in place but not yet a contract and the contractor then sets about assembling a group of subcontractors to carry out various aspects of the work, who themselves make suggestions regarding the execution of the work. There is then a final agreed upon price and the Contractor will be paid this sum regardless of whether it costs more of less. Don't hold me to accuracy on this but the two-stage process is not favored by the industry but by the purchasers.

It all seems quite fuzzy, which is great for wheeling & dealing but maybe not so good if you are a purchaser like KCTMO with virtually no in-house experience on a extensive refurbishments, Ultimately, in the first go, they would have benefited from a more constrained & formal contract. Most refurbishment projects to social housing had previously been done by the Council itself, through Construction Management companies. The Council's constitution regarding the Tenant Management Organization had been rewritten and KCTMO's management agreement with the Council called for their having greater responsibility regarding large projects on properties under their control.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

A couple of questions which I can't answer but which are relevant to your points above:
• Was the building supplied from the utility's high voltage system, or was it supplied directly at low voltage?
• In whose ownership is the HV/LV transformer and substation feeding the building?
If the utility intake is at high voltage then the problem rests squarely with the building owner because a neutral fault is exclusively confined to the LV side of the distribution transformer (the high voltage side is 3-wire delta; there's no neutral).

Without some idea of the cabling design it is conjecture, but given the number of anecdotal reports of problems throughout the building my guess is that the neutral failed somewhere close to the transformer or main LV switchboard. The distribution system probably looks a little like the roots of a tree, gradually thinning out and becoming more numerous the further from the transformer and main switchboard they get.

The 'buzzing meter' may be a coin-operated type, and the buzzing is sometimes caused by the magnetic yokes of the contactor not seating cleanly. Irritating but not harmful - it's a noise which would keep me awake.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK (Electrical)

Thanks ScottyUK, the only substantive information we have to go on is the building design, it was designed as an open floor plan, so it could be converted to office space if that was a future need, it had a plant in the basement with boilers & water pumping facilities to distribute water to Grenfell Tower & the three housing blocks. Possibly the water pumping facility would be the only thing requiring the higher voltage.

Seems other have given some quality thought to how the 2013 power surges may have played a roll in the Grenfell Tower Fire.

This post on May 28 2013 from the Grenfell Action Group is interesting because it suggests that Data Logging was already in place BEFORE the May 29 2013 catastrophic power event. The question is if it was scheduled for installation or was actually up and recording. I assume Data Logging provided by UKPN would be strictly supplier side. Another bit of information that may or may not be useful is the statement that "Key Meters" were fused by the power event on May 29. I'm thinking Key Meters are prepayment meters in each flat.

I think we have established the 2013 Power Surge events of May 2013 are worthy of a critical examination leading up to the Grenfell Tower fire. There are 22 "perfectly" unscathed Flats from the Forth Floor & up that could be examined and other that may not have had their major appliance affected by the fire.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Eighty-two buildings fail; from the BBC,

"Eighty-two buildings have failed a new fire safety test set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, ministers say.

The test examines the safety of building cladding and insulation in combination.

It comes as an independent review of building regulations and fire safety has also been announced by the government."

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

December 2 2014 – New Window Detail is submitted to RBKC Planning & Building Control as a Non-Material Change for a smaller window size.
January 2 2015 – RBKC Planning & Building Control - Jonathan Bore’s Decision letter of accepting the Non-Material change.
March 2015 – Harley Facades is well into installation of the first set of windows on the North Façade. (KCTMO March Newsletter w/ photo)
and then
May 3 2015 – Report to RBKC HOUSING AND PROPERTY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE Grenfell Tower Project
"The scheme is 7 weeks delayed, which has been agreed by an Extension of Time being issued, which gives a new completion date of 23 October.
The delay has been caused by planning issues associated with the new windows and late demolition work."

Since there wasn't any delay in accepting the Non-Material change, it seems more likely that at some point a building inspector reported that the new window scheme was wonky and compartmentalization was a problem.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the BBC
Aluminum composite material (ACM) with mineral wool insulation have now failed the Building Research Establishment (BRE) tests. Link
I thought this would have a chance of passing but NO.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

This is a report about the previous Torch Tower fire.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/fire-engulfs-dubai-mar...

We have discussed a lot of these cladding fires in this forum. The main difference in the Grenfell fire is the loss of life. And it was closer to home for many of the posters. As well, it was a refurbishment, while the others were new construction.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

They've established a scope:

The full terms of reference for the public inquiry, which have been accepted in full by the prime minister, are:

The cause and spread of the fire
The design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower
The scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations relating to high-rise buildings
Whether the relevant legislation and guidance were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower
The actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy
The response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire and the response of central and local government in the aftermath

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The thing that leaps out at me is the "and other bodies" bit in the fifth bullet. Given a sufficiently inquisitive Counsel for the Inquiry, that ought to give them licence for a pretty thorough exploration. Interesting though that there isn't a similar set of words in the final bullet (considering the experience of Hillsborough, where setting an arbitrary time to mark the start of the aftermath was controversially used to curtail the scope of the 1989 Inquest).

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

zeus... you'd think so, but, not knowing the 'pecking order' of their establishment, you likely don't know. That they've omitted the social aspects/causes makes you think the inquiry will be somewhat 'crippled'.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Reading a bit more about events at Grenfell Tower in 2013 which may be relevant to the 2017 fire:

It seems to be the case that the building is supplied at low voltage from the public system rather than having its own HV intake and local substation.
A problem appears to have occured on the supply cable to the building which resulted in a high resistance or open neutral condition either in the cable itself or, more likely, at a joint in the cable.

It would be interesting to know a little more about the 2013 fault, and what was done to repair it, because it seems plausible that the 2013 repair has failed or the same problem has occurred again at a new location. Accurate technical reports don't appear to be readily available, but there are several references to a serious problem in 2013 which could well be the precursor to the 2017 fire.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Scotty:
Consistent with the above sketches showing an open neutral?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hi Dik,

Seems that way - the symptoms described are certainly similar, with brownouts, surges and a handful of appliance fires occurring. In the 2013 event the failed neutral appears to have occured externally to the building on an underground cable. Cable faults are rare in cables which are correctly layed and backfilled, but poor installation techniques can damage the cable which leads to failure many years later.

I also wonder - in a purely speculative way - whether the cable has a reduced cross-section neutral compared to the phase conductors and the basis that a well-balanced load would not result in a large neutral current. If the load became sufficiently imbalanced then it is possible, in theory at least, that the neutral conductor would be under-sized for the current it was carrying. This type of cable was definitely used in the early 1970's.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

If indeed the problem was external to Grenfell Tower, then the cause of the electrical problems should have been recorded. Peter Maddison – Director of Assets and Regeneration, the Head Honcho for KCTMO on the Grenfell Refurbishment project, told the RBKC Council that subsequent to the power failure, monitoring equipment (Data Logger) had been set up. If the data-logger was set up externally, wouldn't this have been done by UKPN, the power distributor or does/can one hire a contractor to perform supply side monitoring? What good would private data logging serve if the issue was caused by UKPN? If the Neutral Fault was external, how did KCTMO's contractor find it, via an in ground vault outside the tower, excavation? Supposedly the root of the problem was finally discovered over a 12 hour period, when all the residents had their power shut off by the contractor.

Leadbitter working on the KALC project adjacent to Grenfell Tower, denied that their work had anything to do with the power problems at Grenfell Tower. Here is a pre-construction site plan that, as near as I can tell, shows the power supply to Grenfell at the South side of the tower, running East, then Northeast across the park, up to Verity Close & on to Silchester Road; bisecting the KALC Project. Link

Surely at some point in the work done on the KALC project the power to Grenfell had to have been a complication. Maybe the original site work was fine and the temporary work around was not. That is, if the site plan & my interpretation is accurate.

When Peter Maddison – KCTMO Director of Assets and Regeneration told the RBKC Council's Housing & Property Scrutiny Committee that some of the residents had confused smoke with steam & the bulk of the Committee bought into this nonsense, it becomes hard to believe the Council was concerned with anything more than being able to distance themselves from the problem and thus the entire exchange between the Council Committee & KCTMO becomes suspect. It seems only the Council Woman representing the Estate took offense with the explanation. Anytime I've been offered mealy-mouthed explanations that stoop to implying utter stupidity by some other party, my confidence in the person voicing the the explanation takes a nose-dive. How does one confuse the acrid smell of an electrical fault with steam?

So the setting is as follows:
A contractor is working adjacent to Grenfell Tower, whose work may or may not have been the cause of power problems at Grenfell Tower.
A power problem that by resident accounts went on for 3 weeks leading to a catastrophic power event.
45 Flats, all on the upper floors of Grenfell Tower experiencing some loss of property because of the catastrophic power event.
Full renewal of Grenfell's rising electricity main.
And subsequent Data Logging.
No suggestions by the Council or KCTMO that Max Fordham, the Mechanical & Electrical Consultant for both the KALC & Grenfell Projects, make any kind of a Survey of the Grenfell Tower electrical services in advance of the refurbishment project.

I am ignorant on electrical but how does an external fault, fry appliances on just the upper floors, over 30% of the flats. Presumably, fry the main electrical riser yet the lower & intermediate floors are unaffected, even though they all experienced power issues? Separate mains?

It is too bad that none of the resident groups never thought to make a freedom of information request for the Data Logging. Most information regarding Council property operations are run through the Tenant Management Organization and KCTMO is a private enterprise, so it is a freedom of information black-hole but KCTMO doesn't own the property, the Council does so, a freedom of information request on the UKPN data-logging to Grenfell Tower may have been a Power Distributor/Owner record beyond the power of KCTMO to keep private.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hi epoxybot,

If the neutral fault occured in the main feeder cable then everything downstream of it would experience the symptoms of the fault - i.e. variable, load-dependent line-neutral voltages. I'm not at all clear on how the building power is distributed but it is vaguely possible that the top third of the building is on one phase, the middle third on a second phase, and the bottom third of the building on the third. Not how I would do it, but not impossible.

A single-line diagram of the building power distribution would be invalauble in ending the speculation, although I doubt one is likely to surface.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Though of little use to the conversation at this point, here is a nice 360 degrees shot from the walkway between the new Academy building & the new Sports Center. It give a nice lay of the land. 180 degrees from Grenfell Tower can be seen an electrical station between the Academy on the left & the Sports Center on the right, with Verity Close housing behind and the pathway leading to Silchester Road veering off behind the Academy. Link Not sure what the little sputnik on the park green is for but all in all the line of sight suggest, Leadbitter must have had some interaction with the Grenfell power grid.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Modern practice is to put the substation in a separate structure as shown in your link. In the 1970's and prior to this date it was still common to have transformer pens set into the building facade and for the switch room to be within the building envelope. I believe the industry moved away from this as a result of transformer fires, or a perceived risk of transformer fires.

Thanks ScottyUK

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

or transformers exploding... encountered a few of those...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

If the 2013 problem was truly just at the top of the building, there a couple of possibilities.

One is that there are multiple feeds into the building and that one feed supplied the upper floors but not the lower floors. Open neutral could then have been most anywhere.

The other possibility, and far more likely to me, is that there's a single feed that goes up the building. My guess is that every few floors there's a distribution panel that feeds the panels for the individual units on a hand full of floors. Maybe one distribution panel every 3 or 5 floors to feed the units on that floor and the floor or two above and below as well as a pass through feed to the next distribution panel up the stack. The connection to the neutral at one of those distribution panels would have been what failed. Everything above has problems, nothing below.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

There is anecdotal non-technical discussion on the internet of a temporary 'bypass' being made during repairs. That would certainly be easier to achieve with accessible boards within a building than bypassing a damaged neutral in a cable.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

There is a point at which I came to the conclusion that Grenfell Tower was always intended to be part of the facelift to the area begun with the Academy & Sports/Leisure Center projects (KALC). The original design of the KALC project called for a (CCHP) Combined Cooling & Heating Plant aka Co-generation Plant. It is a requirement of certain projects in the UK, maybe just London to explore and/or develop a CCHP that is capable of supplying heat & power to the district in which the project is situated.

Some of the problems a CCHP built by the KALC project were, the small footprints of the Academy & Sports/Leisure Center, the district (Grenfell Tower and the 3 Lancaster West Finger Block Flats) being the largest user of the CCHP and the amount of waste heat lost in supplying the energy to the district without doing an extensive refurbishment to the district heating system. There was also the concern of finding a long-term plant operator that would view operating a plant capable of only marginal surplus power sales & profit marketable. I got the impression the downside was driven home purposefully to justifiably eliminating the CCHP from the KALC project.

One idea the Energy Survey didn't look into was the RBKC Council providing a long-term lease of the basement at Grenfell Tower to the KALC project and in turn the KALC Project leasing the CCHP plant back to KCTMO, the Council's Residential Property Management Organization.

The RBKC Council & KCTMO were hamstrung when it came to spending on large council owned housing projects. Even though they had over 200 million in reserves in the Council Owned Housing-Housing Revenue Account, much of that was weighed against existing debt and the difference between the debt and the reserve, represented the total amount of borrowing the Housing Revenue Account could exercise if needed. They could borrow about 18 million. The Council was also restricted to using only money from income & rents generated in the Council Owned properties to fund the Housing Revenue Account.

If the KALC Project had leased the basement at Grenfell & leased back the CCHP to KCTMO, the Council would have been able to seemingly inject Council money from outside the Housing Revenue Account into a project that would have benefited the KALC project while meeting the District supply goal and solving the problem of replacing the boilers at Grenfell Tower without the Housing Revenue Account having to make a gross expenditure but one over time. KCTMO would sell discounted heat & power to the Academy & Sports/Leisure Center, be able to supply cheap power & heat to the district while still charging at a profit but also bear the responsibility of acquiring an interested operator. The Housing Revenue Account, not having to pay upfront costs for the new boilers & power generator plus the whole basement electrical would have been reworked, would seem to have been a Win/Win/Win.

But perhaps I give too much credit to the RBKC Council that they wouldn't have still done Grenfell's facelift on the cheap.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ACM with a fire retardant polyethylene filler with stone wool insulation has been found to be compliant Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

While not directly relevant to Grenfell Tower, Australia's "Four Corners" current affairs show ran a story last night about how much PE-core cladding is installed in Australia. (We had our own near-disaster with the Lacrosse Apartments fire in Melbourne in 2014.) I suspect the situation could be similar in many other countries.

In the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, reporter Deb Whitmont investigates the risk of flammable aluminium cladding in Australia & the dangerous legacy of failed regulation in the building industry. #4Corners

ABC TV Broadcast 8:30pm Mon 4 Sep 2017. Published 12 hours ago, available until 9:17pm on 27 Sep 2017. File size approx. 358 MB

http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/four-corners/NC17...
(I suspect the iView link is geo-blocked if you are not in Australia, but there might be other ways to access the show.)

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Another note on open neutrals and high voltages.
Putting together the comment that the diversity of the large number of loads would somewhat limit the overvoltage on one phase, and Keith's sketch.
In the sketch, replace the 100 Watt lamp with 4 25 Watt lamps. Same over voltage on the lamps but the weakest fails first.
Now we have 75 Watts in series with the tea pot and the voltage rises. The next weakest lamp fails and now we have 50 Watts in series with the tea pot and the voltage rises further.
The point is that while diversity may somewhat limit the original overvoltage, as devices progressively fail, the voltage progressively rises.
It is a situation with a natural tendency to become worse.
Actually the effect is different depending on whether one phase is lightly loaded with respect to the other two or if one phase is heavily loaded with respect to the other two.
With one phase lightly loaded the voltage will drop slightly on the other two phases and the devices on one phase will tend to fail.
The voltage on the high phase will approach approximately 400V/2 x 1.73 or 346 Volts.
If two phases are lightly loaded and devices on both phases begin to fail the voltages will approach 400 Volts.
The over voltages will initially not be as great on a three phase circuit and the failures may be spread over a greater time.
By comparison, open neutral failures on a single phase circuit typically progress much more rapidly.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Thanks Bill, do they have means of measuring open neutral lines? or just by the increase in the voltage?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT OPEN NEUTRALS.
The symptoms are fairly straightforward dik.
A combination of under-voltage and over-voltage from lines to neutral.
With balanced loads there may not be any indication of an open neutral.
A failing connection may introduce a resistance in the neutral circuit, further confusing things.
There are some tests that look good on paper or as sound bites that are difficult to perform and less than perfect under real world conditions.
Measure the neutral resistance? Easy to say but often difficult in the real world.
The neutral circuit includes everything from the transformer to the final panel, or to the load in the case of a three wire circuit such as is common in many kitchen receptacle circuits in North America.
As devastating as they may be, open neutrals are so rare that regular testing is not normal.
A check of the neutral resistance as part of the commissioning process may be required, but this will not predict problems years in the future.
Normally, an open neutral is detected or suspected by the symptoms.
Then a series of voltage checks and physical inspection is used to locate the problem.
eg: The voltages are normal at panel "A" but unbalanced at sub panel "B". Look for a bad connection between "A" and "B".
History is also important. The first time there is an issue with an open neutral there may be some time lost before the cause is identified and located.
The second time that similar symptoms arise, there should be an immediate response and an aggressive effort to locate and rectify the problem.
What will an open or high resistance neutral look like in your home?
There is a difference.
The overwhelming number of open neutrals that I have encountered have been due to human error. As in the village idiot trying to be an electrician.
As a natural occurrence a high resistance connection is more likely.
This is often due to corrosion or heat cycling at a connection.
If you refer back to the sketch that Keith posted on 26 July, insert a resistance where an open neutral is shown.
Now with light unbalances there may be small change in voltage balance.
Consider a typical home in the morning:
A couple of lights, clocks and possibly a radio connected. A fairly low current through the neutral resistance and a fairly low voltage shift.
Now you plug in the toaster. Now we have a larger unbalanced current and a greater voltage shift. Along with the toast you want some coffee and the coffee maker happens to be on the same line. The radio happens to be on the other line and starts to release the magic smoke.
You call an electrician. You forget to tell him about the toast and coffee. (As a non-technical home owner you don't realise that it is important.)
The electrician checks the voltages and finds them to be reasonably close.
This may be the first time that he has ever encountered an open neutral. It may take him some time to locate the problem when the symptoms are not showing.
The second time this happens both the electrician and the home owner should immediately say;
"Looks like another open neutral!"
The first step in a successful CYA cover-up is is to set the terms of reference of the enquiry to exclude anything that will show your liability.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

Thanks, Bill

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (waross)

The radio happens to be on the other line and starts to release the magic smoke.
Wow, did you visit my house in 2004, Bill? A few months after I moved in that's exactly what I found. Thankfully no magic smoke was released.

STF

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

New developments:

From the BBC:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) told the Observer it would look at whether the authorities failed in their duty to protect life.

This aspect, it said, was "currently overlooked".

Meanwhile, the leader of the council that owns the tower told the Sunday Times she would not attend a memorial service, after a request from families.

Elizabeth Campbell, who took over at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) in the wake of the blaze, said the memorial service on Thursday marking six months since the disaster was not "about me".

The government appointed a retired judge to lead an inquiry into the 14 June blaze, which killed 71 people.
The EHRC's work will focus on whether the government and RBKC fell short in their duty to protect life, prevent inhuman treatment and provide safe housing.

From the CBC:

London police are considering a variety of criminal charges related to the June fire at Grenfell Tower that left 71 people dead.
Police told an inquiry Monday that the possible charges include misconduct in public office, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of fire safety regulation.

No one has yet been charged.

Jeremy Johnson, lawyer representing the police at the inquiry, said the scope of the investigation was "unprecedented" in a case that did not involve an extremist attack.

He said police are studying 31 million documents and 2,500 exhibits.

Johnson spoke at a hearing spelling out how a detailed inquiry into the disaster will be carried out.
Officials say the goal is to make sure there is never a repeat of the catastrophe.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

For those who are following this incident, the Public Inquiry website is at https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/ where the likely areas of coverage for the report are detailed.

It doesn't look as limited in scope as some had portrayed it to be; I hope the judge has the the strength of character to pursue the investigation fully even though it will almost certainly cast a very unfavourable light upon parts of the UK's regulatory framework and upon both local and national government.

Thanks, Hokie...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

excerpt from that report: " It confirmed that the aluminium cladding panels and the insulation foam were combustible and noted that some of the insulation did not have a manufacturer’s logo on it."
From that , it sounds as if even the material they were supposed to use , was not.
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

Wow, so they actually did use rubberized flashing in the 150mm gaps between the vertical sides of the windows and the existing concrete window opening. This is what I originally thought and then considered it far too egregious. I eventually found an intumescent flashing that looked quite similar. It will be interesting to see what was approved by the RBKC Planning & Building Control staff and what was supplied in the field. Was there really any difference in cost between using custom sized windows vs the extra labor of having to cobble together a gap filling solution with standard factory sized window units or was it all project schedule motivated?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I've noted on a couple of other sites that the professional architectural association has been very quiet. Would have thought with the lack of involvement and large number of deaths that they would have been 'front and centre', and also that criminal charges have been slow.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (epoxybot)

or was it all project schedule motivated?

Whatever it was, it was negligent.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The disaster was the result of cutting the red tape (regulations).

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

bimr... Not cutting red tape.

Incompetent government management employees making decisions on items beyond their understanding. Contrary to the article, cutting red tape is not the issue and only shifts the focus away from the real issue.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

But dik, those who want more red tape always point to lack of regulation when something, anything, goes wrong.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Hokie, that's the reason the article was written the way it was... to deflect from the real issues.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Of course. Tell that to bimr and his friends.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (dik (Structural))

bimr... Not cutting red tape.

Incompetent government management employees making decisions on items beyond their understanding. Contrary to the article, cutting red tape is not the issue and only shifts the focus away from the real issue.

Waiting to hear the "real reason".

Hotpoint fridge?

No regulations that require sprinklers?

No regulations that require fire brigades to be trained adequately and have the proper equipment?

Contractor cost cutting and greed?

Bureaucrats that fail to enforce regulations?

Failure of elected officials to adopt recommended national building codes that help state and local jurisdictions enhance the public's social and economic well-being by coordinating efforts across geographic boundaries to make technical findings, improve performance criteria and promote standards to ensure safe, durable, accessible and efficient buildings?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Or maybe just poor education and training of architects?

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Problem is Hokie, that I don't think an Architect was involved in the decision...

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

If that is the case, then I would agree that regulation is required. An architect (or a facade engineer) should be involved in all such projects.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

...there is no hue and cry from the professional architects... wonder why?

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Because they are not professional?

There was an architectural firm whose title block appeared on the drawings linked above. Studio E LLC. No idea of their role in the project beyond producing those drawings.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Architect Magazine is covering the story:

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

From the BBC's Panorama - "The programme has been advised that the way Celotex tested and sold the insulation could amount to corporate manslaughter".

If the way the BBC has characterized the actions of Celotex, they are in a world of hurt.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot,

There was a lot of discussion in this thread about the role the insulation played, and whether it was a bigger contributor to the fire than the composite panels.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Quote (epoxybot)

If the way the BBC has characterized the actions of Celotex, they are in a world of hurt.

The real responsibility of the fire rests with those in authority, not, the suppliers. They were either ignorant or incompetent.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The number of successful prosecutions for corporate manslaughter in the UK is painfully small, and most seem to result in fines rather than imprisonment of company directors: https://www.cps.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documen...

The Grenfell incident obviously carries a lot of political and emotional weight, and there will be a strong desire to see a successful prosecution of those responsible. It is (possibly) worthy of note that the only prosecution brought against a public body - part of the NHS - resulted in acquittal on the direction of the judge. It will be interesting to see if Kensington and Chelsea Council are brought to trial and whether the prosecution leads to conviction or acquittal.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

ScottyUK... I'm not holding my breath on this one.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

You're as cynical as I am, Dik. Well, almost.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

hokie66 - I think once the fire took hold it was the cladding, then the insulation and then the cladding again. It got to the point where the polyethylene was melting 3 stories up in advance of the flames and flowing down in to the fire. Constantly feeding the heat to drive the polyol out of the PUR insulation. The polyol raised the temperature of the fire, which then completely consumed the slower burning polyethylene & supplied the heat to melt the PE in advance of the fire. The fire didn't just burn upwards it dripped like a candle & burnt downwards as well.

Dik - The main culprits would seem to be KCTMO, possibly RBKC's Rock Fielding-Mellen & Nicholas Paget-Brown & the RBKC's Building Officials. Rydon & the cladding contractor has submitted a change in the size of the windows (smaller than the opening) and it lingered at the Building Permit Dept. I can only assume it was eventually permitted. This is when compartmentalization was compromised. I assume someone will get thrown under the bus. Probably the Cladding contractor. If the Building Dept actually approved the use of a bituminous mastic membrane as a weather seal in the gaps between the window frame & the structure, then the building official & the contractor should both meet justice, because the use of that material in that location was just insane. Clearly the entire cladding industry in the UK was heading towards this disaster but using a bituminous mastic membrane in a makeshift compartmentalization work around with other combustible materials was utterly abandoning safety. I'm still not sure how Studio-E fits in after Rydon was assigned the work.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I doubt anyone in authority will be held accountable.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

I agree - no criminal charges were ever brought after the Piper Alpha disaster, even though the public inquiry was a damning indictment of Occidental as the platform operator and of the regulatory framework which the offshore industry operated within at the time. So far my impression is that the Grenfell inquiry is going to be rather less rigorous and wide-ranging than the Cullen inquiry into Piper Alpha, although I hope I am proven wrong.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

it is high time that the engineering professiona in the Uk become regulated with educational and experience requirements just as in the US and Canada. At the moment anyone can call himself an engineer and design things and approve drawings etc.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Longintthetooth,
What about the architects? This was primarily an architecturally related catastrophe.

hokie66: concur.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

good point hokie 66.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Dr Barbara Lane, a director at the Arup consultancy appointed as a technical expert by the inquiry, presents her findings to the Inquiry panel.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

The Guardian link is pretty good. Can't bring myself to click on the Daily Mail.

If even half of what Dr Lane has noted so far is proven then it is pretty damning for both the contractor and the building management company responsible for the works.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

You notice that she does not indicate who authorised the changes. Somebody had to have approved them.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Grenfell firefighter's bodycam footage & photos from inside the flat where the fire started.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Attached are links to the Expert hearings & reports. There are a total so far, of 3 Expert Hearings & 4 Expert Reports.
I have watched two of the hearings 3 to 4 hours each.

Dr Barbara Lane's presentation: Part 1 of the video covers Building Standards & Grenfell's building history, while part 2 applies the standards to the work done to Grenfell.

Professor Luke Bisby's expert report, also in two parts. In part 1 discusses fire generation & methods of evaluation material combustion, while part 2 applies what was discussed in part 1 to Grenfell; much as did Dr Barbara Lane. You could skip part one of both of these, although they make good classroom material on the subjects covered.

The links also contain a link to a pdf of the report. I recommend the pdf. They are definitely worth a look and contain many "As Built" and detailed post fire photos.

To add some clarity to the reports of polystyrene in the facade, it appears the Window In-fill Panels & the Fan Opening Insert were an ACM material (Aluglaze) Link made up of 2ea - 2mm sheets of aluminum & 25mm of polystyrene. Many of these Aluminum In-fill sheets fell from Grenfell during the fire. One suspicion is that the fan may have fallen out of this panel during the initial kitchen fire & the fan opening was the earliest route of flame to the exterior.

Comparing Dr Barbara Lane's determination of where Fire Block SHOULD have been and where fire block was placed, just over half as much was used as standards require and though detailed; was missing in vertical positions on a number of the columns.

No form of fire-stopping was found in any of the window assemblies, where the window stopped short of the column. The only consideration was for waterproofing the gap with an EPDM membrane and additional insulation board. Forensic deconstruction frequently found the insulation had been omitted. The interior of the gap was filled with a 10mm strip of uPVC that started to lose strength at about 50C. This same uPVC was used in the interior window surrounds and one of the reports show a photo from a partially damaged apartment with the uPVC in a frozen state of melting.

Professor Luke Bisby speaks a great deal to the rapid vertical advancement of the fire, followed by the melting, downward & horizontal envelopment. His link has a compilation video that gives a time position to the many video and show the advancement of the fire from very early in the fire to full conflagration.

Looking at Professor Niamh Nic Daeid's report it becomes clear that by the time the fire crew in unit 16 finally started to apply water to the kitchen blaze, the facade had been ignited for 1 or 2 minutes.

Professor Luke Bisby's expert report Link
Professor Niamh Nic Daeid's presentation Link
Professor Jose L Toreros Expert Report Link

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Epoxybot:

I went through Dr. Lane's report earlier. I assume that none of the reports points a finger at the agency involved in the decision to use flammable materials. There is no responsibility for the deaths of the 71 people.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Dik:

As I understand it, in Phase 1 of the Inquiry the expert witnesses merely report their findings according to the scope of work they have been assigned. Phase 2 will be around October of this year. I'll be curious to see what form this takes. I can't help but think this looks very bad for anyone at the RBKC Planning & Building Control, who had anything to do with the window assemblies.

The smaller window size was submitted & accepted on an application for a minor change, not in need of re-submission under a new permit & a full review of the project, so perhaps this meant that some of the procedural review wasn't required to be reassessed. As in, perhaps it didn't have to fall under the eyes of the people responsible for Fire Safety.

It is odd that it took at least an extra month for the RBKC Planning & Building Control to release the change of the windows for construction, only for the as built result to be so absent of a fundamental element of building safety. We are living in very frustrating times where the public is being told, "If you see something, say something", yet people who studied a professional discipline and have been vetted, credentialed & have made oaths are given salvation for having turned a blind eye to glaring problems. All under the excuse that, it wasn't within the scope of their work or that the error was a procedural fault & thus not mine. It isn't that such circumstances don't happen, it is just that more often than not more than one turned a blind eye.

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

epoxybot:

At this point, it doesn't look bad for anyone at all... maybe, just my impression.

Dik

RE: 24-level building tower fire in West London

Oops! Architectural expert sacked from Grenfell inquiry. Link
He obviously knew. Something seriously wrong with him to go so far in such a sensitive matter.

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