As Central London Residential Tower is Subject to Devastating Fire and Loss of Life, Questions Raised About Recent Refurbishment

A 24-storey housing tower—Grenfell House—in North Kensington, London, has been subject to a devastating fire and subsequent loss of life and injury. At the time of reporting, six people have died as a result of the event and, according to the BBC, “more than 70 people [are currently being] treated at five London hospitals” with “20 in critical care.” (The London Ambulance Service have recently confirmed that the actual figures are 64 people currently being treated at six hospitals.)

200 firefighters in 45 fire engines attended the scene following reports of fire at around 0100 local time. The building, originally constructed in 1974, underwent a restoration by Studio E [at this time their website is not responding] “less than two years ago,” according to the Architects’ Journal.

In 2012, Building Design reported that Studio E had been appointed to refurbish Grenfell to the tune of £8.6million ($11million). This commission was to involve “energy efficiency improvements and improvements to public space at ground level” – “the tower will be fitted with external cladding to provide a rain screen and flats will receive double glazing. Flats will also be fitted with new heating and water systems.” As told to the BBC and reported in the Architects’ Journal, Member of Parliament, former firefighter and Minister for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice and Victims Mike Penning said that he “believed the cladding used on the exterior of the building [to be] responsible for spreading the fire.”

Worryingly, it appears that a local activism group called the Grenfell Action Group, formed in 2010, had raised explicit concerns about the safety of residents in the tower in the case of fire – all warnings of which, in their words, “fell on deaf ears.” A blog post from the group, published at 5am local time, reads:

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC. ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.

You can follow the developing story on the BBC. News via Architects’ JournalBuilding DesignGrenfell Action Group.