Flammable-Cladding Crisis in Residential Towers: The UK’s Housing Nightmare with “Mortgage Prisoners”

And who is going to pay? In the world of “leaseholders” and “freeholders.”

By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET:

Imagine owning an apartment in a high-rise building that is suddenly deemed to be a fire trap. Next, you discover that you and all your neighbors will have to pay tens of thousands of pounds each to have the flammable insulation and cladding materials on the outside of the building replaced. You cannot sell the apartment because lenders are refusing to write a mortgage on the apartment. To cap it off, you’re told you have to pay hundreds of pounds a month, in the midst of a global recession — in addition to the mortgage payments and other costs — to cover the costs of round-the-clock fire-patrols to make sure the building you occupy doesn’t suddenly go up in flames.

This nightmare scenario is becoming increasingly common for leaseholders of apartments in the UK. Following the deaths of 72 people in the fire on June 14, 2017, at the 24-story Grenfell Tower in London that had been fitted with highly flammable insulation and cladding, similar materials have been uncovered at thousands of towers across the UK. Owners of flats in smaller buildings have also had their lives upended because their blocks were built with unknown or dangerous materials.

So first… “leasehold” arrangements are still common in England, particularly with regard to apartment buildings with some common land and building use. When an apartment is purchased as a leasehold, the buyer is really no more than a tenant, albeit one with a tenancy agreement that typically lasts for up to a century. The “freehold” — the building and the land — belongs to somebody else, usually the developer or another entity that the developer sold it to, and they are able to extract annual rent on those assets. The terms of the leases have become increasingly onerous as global investors have bought up the “freeholds.” The government has finally been shamed into at least pledging to change this archaic system.

The new building fire safety rules and regulations that came into effect after the Grenfell fire, while largely welcome albeit decades too late, have sparked a host of unintended consequences for the UK’s apartment market.

Mortgage lenders have refused to offer loans for any properties in high-rise buildings that have been flagged as firetraps or have yet to be inspected but could prove to be firetraps. As a result, the vast majority of the UK’s high-rise apartments, which sit at the bottom of the property ladder, are for the present moment impossible to sell or buy.

This could end up causing serious problems higher up the ladder, warns Eric Leenders, managing director of personal finance at UK Finance: “The whole chain of property sales can collapse if one part of that chain can’t get its form: it’s not just the first-time buyers, it’s second-steppers, it’s movers. We just don’t know the scale of the issue now.”

The Financial Times cited an estimate from Campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal that the erosion of trust in building safety had created 1.93 million “mortgage prisoners” in England. Last week, The Daily Telegraph, using data from the New Build Database, suggested that as many as many as 4.5 million buildings could be affected. Since then, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has put forward proposals aimed at reducing that number.

Most of the buildings have yet to be inspected, leaving millions of leaseholders trapped in financial limbo. Those whose buildings have already been deemed unsafe are having to pay hundreds of pounds per month, in the midst of a global economic crisis, to cover the additional service costs of having 24-hour fire patrols at their buildings. For some, the costs are too much to bear.

For those whose building hasn’t been inspected the wait is interminable. The logistic chaos caused by intermittent lockdowns of the UK economy is hardly helping matters. Nor is the acute paucity of trained inspectors: before Christmas there were fewer than 300 fire safety professionals qualified to sign the forms in the whole country.

Plus, nobody wants to cover the costs for inspections and, if necessary, remediation of the buildings. Total costs are expected to reach upward of £15 billion to rectify the safety issues in all of the affected buildings. But the government has so far only pledged £1.6 billion. Leaseholders argue that freeholders and developers should bear the costs to make buildings safe. But for the moment building owners can pass on the costs, which can reach up to £40,000 per apartment, to residents. And many are.

That could change in the coming months. In November, the house of Lords passed three amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, which included banning leaseholders from being forced to pay. But those amendments will have to pass on the bill’s return to the House of Commons.

The Grenfell fire was entirely avoidable. And positive change may eventually come from it. After two and a half years of hearing evidence, the still-ongoing Grenfell Inquiry has identified three major reasons why the building was fitted with highly flammable materials:

1.Gross negligence by Grenfell’s Building Control Board, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). The Grenfell Inquiry has provided unprecedented insight into how the UK construction industry puts profit above safety. Determined to cut corners in its refurbishment of Grenfill Tower, the property’s landlord, KCTMO, switched more expensive zinc cladding panels for the aluminum alternatives, in the process saving itself about £290,000 in costs. This became the main cause of the spread of the fire that claimed 72 lives.

2. Manipulated safety tests and fraudulent product claims by the three manufacturers, Celotex, Kingspan and Arconic. Celotex (from France) and Kingspan (from Ireland) manufactured and sold the insulation that was fitted to Grenfell. Arconic (from the U.S.) manufactured and sold the cladding that was wrapped around it. In all three cases commercial interests appear to have trumped all other considerations, including safety. Two of the firms, together with appliance manufacturer Whirlpool, which produced the fridge that allegedly started the fire, have been sued in the US, but the class action suit was dismissed on grounds that it would make more sense to try the case in the UK.

All three firms (Celotex, Kingspan and Arconic) have been shown by the inquiry to have manipulated the fire safety tests in order to get their highly inflammable products certified for use in high-rise buildings. Internal emails have also revealed that employees at all three firms knew about the huge safety risks posed by their products but sold them anyway.

One example: In 2015, as Arconic’s Reynobond PE cladding was being fitted to Grenfell’s facade, Claude Wherle, a former senior executive at the company wrote in an internal email that the material “is DANGEROUS on facades, and everything should be transferred to FR [fire resistant] as a matter of urgency”. He remarked that this opinion “is technical and anti-commercial, it seems,” adding a smiley face, in an email previously disclosed by the inquiry.

Wherle is one of a number of Arconic workers refusing to appear as a witness to the inquiry. Another, Claude Schmidt, who is a president at a subsidiary of Arconic, had allegedly told the Inquiry team that he will only appear if he can choose the questions he will be asked.

3. Widespread incompetence and seeming conflicts of interest at government and standards bodies, including the British Research Establishment, the British Standards Institute (BSI) and British Board of Agrement (BBA), all of which were privatized in the years preceding the fire. The Labour government also played a big part in paving the way to the Grenfell fire, having lifted a ban on combustible insulation for high rises in 2006. Even after the Lakanal House fire in 2009 revealed the fatal consequences of flammable external panels, it refused to reverse course.

So far, the only people who have paid a high price for the fire — besides the victims, their relatives, and the survivors, some of whom were still waiting for permanent rehousing three years after the fire — are the millions of leaseholders who, through no fault of their own, are now trapped in financial limbo. And many of them are trapped in buildings that are dangerous. By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET.

There is “unprecedented space across the West End”: REIT Shaftesbury PLC grapples with a new reality. Read… As Short-Term Renters & Immigration Fizzle, and People Move Out to “Work from Somewhere Else,” London Apartment Vacancies Soar, Rents Drop

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  110 comments for “Flammable-Cladding Crisis in Residential Towers: The UK’s Housing Nightmare with “Mortgage Prisoners”

  1. Cas127 says:

    “But for the moment building owners can pass on the costs, which can reach up to £40,000 per apartment, to residents.”

    This is the part of the story that has made little sense to me…how does the mere *removal* of decorative *cladding* cost anywhere near this much…especially if no money is spent replacing it.

    The cladding is not integral to the building structure as far as I have seen reported, so why is it allegedly so expensive to simply remove?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Cas127,

      This cladding and insulation are the outer layers of the entire tower. You have to take the outside off a finished and lived-in tower and put on a new outside (cladding and insulation) on the tower. The cladding is not just decoration. It’s the outer layer of a multi-layer sandwich construction that keeps the water out and protects the insulation and the other layers behind it. I’ve seen them do that on a tower in San Francisco that they redeveloped, except no one was living in it. It’s a huge project, the scaffolding, the materials, the equipment, the sheer size of it, there are traffic issues because the crane sits in the street… there are issues around every single one of the windows to make sure the areas where the cladding meets the window frame are watertight….

      • Cas127 says:

        “It’s the outer layer of a multi-layer sandwich construction that keeps the water out and protects the insulation and the other layers behind it.”

        From Wikipedia, the multi layer sandwich includes an air channel for rain to run down and through, with the metal/composite skin being outermost, then air channel, then insulation, then the actual structural wall of the building.

        So everything from the insulation (also implicated in fire) on out has to be removed.

        The whole design seems weird from the get go.

        1) Insulation on the *outside* of the building, exposed to elements via air channel? This is the exact opposite concept of that used in home insulation, where it is on the *inside* helping to make the structure airtight (too airtight…) for literal insulation purposes.

        Why can’t high rise insulation be installed on the *inside*…where it is also presumably cheaper to install (no epic scaffolding)

        2) Although stagnant, trapped air can be a good insulator…that doesn’t seem to be what the cladding’s air channel is exactly. Rain runs down and through it (next to insulation…). Also, air channel intrinsically acts as continuous fire chimney if something goes wrong…helping to *spread* fire upwards.

        3) A lot (most?) high rises I have seen don’t have continuous cladding, it is a selective design element rather than a structural or insulative necessity.

        Even in the Grenfell disaster, the worst cladding only covered a small part of the bldg,

        “Although K15 was never specified or sold by Kingspan for use on Grenfell Tower, contractors responsible for the building’s refurbishment in 2015 used it for about 5 per cent of the outside of the building.”
        – from New Statesman link above

        The whole continuous cladding concept seems weird, wasteful, and potentially dangerous from design on out.

        Add that to the multiple construction frauds and inspection failures and it is surprising more building haven’t gone up.

        • Cas127 says:

          Wolf,

          C’mon, man…my preceding comment has been under review all day, meanwhile the BBQ twins below have been posted for many hours…

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Cas127,

          The link did it.

        • Eddie says:

          Another name for air channel is chimney. Bad by design.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Cas, it’s modern curtain wall construction. Steel frame tower is the structural support with the walls and windows hung on the outside of the frame. All the earmarks of modernity: cheaper and faster.

        • Nacho Libre says:

          Cas127,

          That was very helpful, learnt something new. This also reminded me of a testimony in front of a congressional committee by builder Trump (not candidate or president Trump) about the UN building remodeling.

        • roddy6667 says:

          The insulation is foam, not fiberglass, so exposure to some moisture is not a problem.

      • Paulo says:

        In BC we had about 10-15 years of what local industry called, “condo disease”. In this case it was the opposite of fire. :-) Mold, black mold…and poor design by architects. It was a perfect storm…arh arh arh. First, the right wing govt at the time lowered trade certification standards while conducting changes to the labour code. This resulted in a lowering of qualified builders on the job site constructing buildings of poor design. Because the building boom raised the price of property, developers and designers maximised the building footprint by reducing roof overhangs. This allowed more water to strike the outside of buildings while at the same time workers were doing more shoddy work (they didn’t know any better and were not as well trained), particularly on window trim. The result was water ingress, black mold, and major major bills for condo owners. If a development had an older building, that was often just fine, BUT the condo owners still had to chip in and help pay for the newer buildings that ended up leaking. A friend of mine had to cough up $40K to help pay to repair a building she did not even live in!!!! It was just located at the same site and owned by the same company.

        The remedy, and why I mention it at all, frightens me as it is similar to Nick’s story. A big solution was installing a rain shield, which is vertical strapping over top of the sheathing and building paper. In other words, there is a vertical air space. All the windows had to come out and be reinstalled. Yes, there is fire block every 8′, but if it is breached the entire building can go up like a candle. The only saving grace is that many buildings here are clad in Hardie plank, which is basically concrete boards that look like cedar siding, or whatever. Although, underneath that plank cladding is flammable sheathing and building paper, separated with that air space.

        And to what Wolf said, not only does the building require the total removal of cladding, immense scaffolding, cranes, etc…it also has to be wrapped. A temporary building has to be built around the main building to hold a special type of tarp. The whole thing makes the building look like it is shrink wrapped. Then, the work goes on behind the plastic, sometimes for years to get the job done. Years. Furthermore, the building wrap has to withstand winter storms and big winds. Think years of it.

        That is why it is so expensive to repair design mistakes and/or shoddy work, after the fact.

        I have seen condo buildings retro fitted 2-3 times due to poor designs. I have no idea what happened to the ownership values, but I do know insurance doesn’t cover repairs.

        • Paulo says:

          One more thing. When I see new fangled green roofs with plants and grass growing up top, I shudder. One of the buildings I was referencing had each story set back from the other with gardens over top of the below suites. I knew the architect and main builder. It was a leaking nightmare and they took a bath on repairs. It looked pretty cool, but roofs and overhangs exist for a reason.

          Sometimes the old ways are best.

        • Joe Saba says:

          can one really miss
          UK debtor prisons

        • Mike G says:

          I had a contractor friend from BC telling me about this years ago. Condo developers were using cheaper southern California building standards that didn’t hold up well against water ingress and mold in the cold rainy BC climate.

        • Bob says:

          Same thing in New Zealand: “Leaky Building Syndrome”, from 2000-2010.

          In New Zealand they changed the law to allow untreated framing timber, and then changed the rules for cladding so air and moisture were trapped. Waterproofing methods were new and complex and threw out centuries of solid carpentry practice. Houses literally rotted and fell apart within a few years. The builders were often FORCED to build them like that. Insane.

          You have to wonder if this was some kind of global conspiracy to relax building standards and produce this mess?

      • Ed says:

        It’s a big deal just to put new windows in a building, if the building is not built with cookie cutter instruction.

        You often have to do custom framing to make it happen. We replaced the windows on our old house. A couple skilled craftsmen spend days at it.

        • Ed says:

          “construction”! This was not a large house, a little more than 2000 square feet.

      • Mira says:

        I didn’t know that either.

    • Willy2 says:

      – Just imagine the cost of building a high rise scaffolding ………….. The Grenfell tower has 24 storeys !!!!

    • Mira says:

      I didn’t know that.

    • Rob says:

      actually its a lot worse figures are now coming out upto £150k. The UK housing market is full of corruption and are the biggest donors to the govt.

  2. Martha Careful says:

    Hmmmm?

    The draft Fire Safety Bill continues undergoing consultation and has not yet been finalised. The Government announced on 17 December 2020 that the deadline for building owners to complete their applications to the Building Safety Fund has been extended to 30 June 2021 (from 31 December 2020). In order to qualify for funding, the remedial works must start onsite by 30 September 2021.

  3. Javert Chip says:

    Plainly, the answer to this and a couple other pressing UK issues is to declare the re-cladding to be a “green” project.

    This IMMEDIATELY:

    1) Creates thousands of good-paying green jobs
    2) buildings will no longer burn down (as frequently), reducing the carbon footprint
    3) Regulators & politicians will see & correct the errors of their (previous) ways
    4) The public LOVES green stuff, and this is a winner.

    The euphoria generated by this idea will cause most leasehold tenants to completely forget how unserious, incompetent and dysfunctional their regulators & politicians really are.

    Ha Ha! Just kidding – this will never happen.

    • Lune says:

      Clearly, the answer is to eliminate building codes, lower regulations on construction companies, provide them with protection from “pesky liability cases”, cut the budget of wasteful local inspectors’ offices, and let the private market take care of it. We’ll see an absolute boom in housing construction (the boom may go sonic sometimes, but well, that’s the price of business).

      And if anyone ends up buying a shoddy, flammable house or apartment, well, it’s their fault because clearly they should have spent 5 years learning to be a building inspector and then pore through old construction blueprints filed at the clerk’s office, plus personally visit the factories of the companies making the construction materials to ensure they’re not lying about their quality, all before buying their starter home.

      Ahh, the wonders of a libertarian paradise! Pity no one wants to live there…

    • hotairmail says:

      I think you’ll find the urge to clad was driven by ‘green’ energy efficiency and ‘gentrification’ by making crappy old buildings superficially pretty.

    • Mira says:

      ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be right, just don’t smoke, light the barbe on the balcony, candles & watch out for spontaneous combustion on hot days.’
      We had combustible cladding here also & buildings that cracked down the middle .. some how ??

    • Trebor says:

      That’s why these high rise buildings were retro clad in the first place!

  4. SpencerG says:

    I wonder if any of this will transfer to America. Hard to believe that the U.S. is immune to construction firms wanting to maximize profits, manufacturers manipulating safety tests, and/or incompetent oversight by government agencies.

    • Sam says:

      USA T1-11 debacle: “Between 1985 and 1995 800,000 homes were sided with a Louisiana-Pacific (LP) product called Inner Seal that sparked one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history after the siding began to fail.”

    • Thomas Roberts says:

      America has mostly houses for living in and apartment buildings (outside of a few areas) tend to be smaller and less connected in America than in Europe. So the risk is much lower.

      The houses in America typically avoid using anything special and because of their small size compared to an apartment building are less likely to be effected by design defects.

      Occasionally scandals involving housing materials like the drywall, effect houses, but, people are now keeping track of housing materials better to avoid this.

      In places like NYC, I could easily imagine similar things like this happening though. A big problem is that when the cost of housing is allowed to go out of control in big cities, the government has to increasingly offer welfare programs that become less and less effective as the problem grows out of control to handle this and the corruption begins to flourish as the money flows in.

    • Brant Lee says:

      You mean firms like Boeing, building less important things like aircraft, cutting corners to maximize profits that drove up the stock price?

      Nah, couldn’t happen in the U.S.

    • Lune says:

      You mean like the Leaning Tower of San Francisco:

      • Anthony A. says:

        Lune, it’s a tourist attraction now!

        • NBay says:

          Needs a few more degrees to match the one in Italy, but someday could be a monument to cheap/ignorant construction, nonetheless.

  5. TS says:

    II I was a building manager or owner, I would go do the removal and upgrade and deduct if from any available tax as the problem was avoided in a overt and knowing manner by the authorities. 40K pounds per unit is rather a obscene price although, unless they are rather large (over 150 sqM)

    • Javert Chip says:

      TS

      Yea, and bunch of bureaucrats would throw your butt in jail.

      You plainly don’t understand the care & feeding of bureaucrats:

      Doesn’t matter what you think; tax bureaucrats will not stand for you “correcting” a tax bill prepared by tax bureaucrats.

      Tax bureaucrats don’t care WHY YOU OWE tax; they only care IF YOU OWE tax. Other than that, facts are meaningless to tax bureaucrats.

  6. Cashboy says:

    When I saw these buildings in the UK having plastic cladding on them always wondered if they could be a fire hazard but gathered that they were not inflammable. My assumption was based on the fact that when I was burning rubbish in the back garden and threw on plastic bottles and plastic containers, the fire got a lot hotter and burned more ferociously emitting black smoke.

    As an accountant in the UK, I always told clients to try to save more and borrow more to buy a freehold as opposed to leasehold especially if you could do a bit of DIY.
    The value of a leased building obviously drops and the service/maintenance charge also goes up with inflation.
    I now live in Thailand and a block of condos with a lift, the maintenance charge generally doubles every 6 years.

    • Cas127 says:

      “As an accountant in the UK, I always told clients to try to save more and borrow more to buy a freehold as opposed to leasehold especially if you could do a bit of DIY.”

      The whole land-lease-to-100-yr-tenant thing (big in London) always struck me as a quasi-medieval concept given a huge assist by insane RE overvaluation (and therefore possibly ZIRP type policies).

      I know the tower situations appear slightly different (more than just land leased, I think) but again, RE overvaluation seems the villain.

      Britain is smallish and about 60m in population but IDK if land is *really* so scarce that people should be “buying” very, very expensive long term leases on land they don’t own.

      Similar goofy land leases pop up occasionally in the most overheated US real estate mkts.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        To be fair, one only “owns” land or a house in the US until one can’t pay the property taxes. Then one finds out that “ownership” is just a leasehold from your local government… who sets the property taxes.

        Ownership can get “fun” when the property taxes are jacked. One reason why landlords are so keen on political connections?

        • nick kelly says:

          If an owner is off the grid, no water, no sewer, no hospital, no police, no schools… his taxes alone would be very unlikely to cause surrender of the prop. If however he wants those things: they have to paid for.

        • Cas127 says:

          WS,

          Correct, but I’ve said my piece on the “unique” aspects of prop taxes elsewhere.

          Nick,

          Water = separate gvt charges
          Sewer = separate gvt charges
          Hospital = separate gvt svcs billing

          Really cops and schools are the only two on your list that don’t have additional charges *in addition to* property taxes.

          And prop taxes are “unique” (dang it)…they are 1) a wealth tax that 2) does not net out debt portion of taxed “value” and 3) never ends.

          Public services do have to be paid for but expenditure control is not remotely the default position of local taxing entities, the ZIRP regime has already brought them a tax revenue windfall far in advance of when the actual homeowner will/may get *his* windfall, and there are the unique aspects of prop tax described above.

        • nick kelly says:

          Cas: maybe where you are. Here, water and sewer are separated on yr tax bill (like grocery items) but form part of tax owing to the city. Here, at any rate, we do not have a private supplier of water. It is broken out on yr bill from the city so you know what yr paying for but forms part of bill owing for tax sale.
          Also on the MANY tax bills I have paid there was a school levy. I noticed this because I’ve never had a kid.
          If you want to play metaphysical games about which part of the bill from the city is a property tax and which is a sewer tax, try taking that to court. If you try to withhold yr sewer or water portion but agree to pay just yr property tax, your property will go to tax sale not a ‘water sale’.

        • Cas127 says:

          NK,

          I’ve lived in three different states and I have *never* had water, sewer, and hospital *not* impose taxes and service fees above and beyond any funding they may (or may not) get from the blanket property tax.

          It isn’t “metaphysical” since service taxes and fees are linked to connections and levels of usage…not the gross value of a home, unadjusted for debt necessary to acquire home.

          Those are very, very different forms of taxation that treat the taxpayer *very* differently.

        • nick kelly says:

          Cas: I’ll concede yr point that although water sewer and garbage bills will be added to tax bill if not paid, you can pay them separately. The three are the only ones billed here.

          Just cops and schools? Here the city does roads, parks, libraries etc. But that was not my point so here it is again: ‘If an owner is off the grid, no water, no sewer, no hospital, no police, no schools… his taxes alone would be minimal’

          A lot out in the wilderness will have a small fraction of the utility, hence value of a serviced municipal lot. Anyone has the option of living in remote areas and not paying for water, sewer, garbage etc. The wealth of a municipal lot is largely created by the services supplied.

          Having sold RE and seen several deals fall apart over water well issues, I always say: never complain about yr city water bill. At least here an area of bad wells, it is the best value in the universe, delivering about 250 gallons a day for about 50 cents. Of course, this turns us into terrible water gluttons.

        • SamCanada says:

          Never thought of property ownership that way, but its totally true.

    • Xabier says:

      About 20 years ago I met a delightful old lady, from whom I bought the first tools for my craft bindery.

      She told me that her father had given her 3 Rules For Life:

      1/ Buy only a freehold, in a good location, cash.

      2/ Buy good furniture that can be sold in a crisis.

      3/ Spend only the interest on capital, never the capital itself.

      In his day, men rarely spoke about money to women, because they expected their husbands to be competent, so he was very enlightened and very sensible.

  7. nick kelly says:

    A sad story and as for the guy saying he won’t answer questions…arrest him.

    One possible clarification (I could be wrong).
    Accused of incompetence are the following:

    ‘British Research Establishment, the British Standards Institute (BSI) and British Board of Agrement (BBA), all of which were privatized in the years preceding the fire.’

    Hopefully someone will wonder how can govt agencies be private? If they are anything like the Canadian hybrid ‘Crown Corporation’ they are private in name only.
    An example is the BC Ferries Co.
    There is ongoing ranting about its ‘privatization’, often
    blamed for its fares, which Van Islanders think are too high.
    So is the private owner? The BC govt which owns all the shares. (No private business could make money running Ferries at the present level of service/fares.)

    Let’s say a dentist’s accountant suggests the dentist move from being a single proprietor and incorporate. The dentist will own all the shares. What has changed?
    Apart from tax issues etc. nothing. The dentist still makes all the decisions.

    I suspect that the above named UK ‘privatized’ government agencies are still 100 % creatures of govt and no part is owned by any private individual.

    Of course this does not absolve the well- paid managers of responsibility.

    • Nick Corbishley says:

      Nick,

      Your clarification is largely right and as such most appreciated. I got the information from the UK trade publication the Architects’ Journal, which wrote the following in an article on the Grenfell fire:

      “Originally set up by government, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), British Standards Institute (BSI) and British Board of Agrément (BBA) later became privatised organisations, required to be commercially self-supporting. They derive income in part from testing and certifying commercial products, and the Celotex allegations imply that BRE may have been too helpful in getting them over the line.”

      But the organizations, while run for commercial purposes, are not, as you suggested, owned by any private individuals. The BRE is owned by the BRE Trust, a registered charity, while the other two are non-profit companies that plough all their revenues back into the company. All of their revenues are ploughed back into the company.

      That said, BSI has been using a lot of its revenues to buy up foreign companies, some of which were privately owned before being acquired (https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/about-bsi/media-centre/press-releases/2002/11/BSI-acquisitions-/). As always, lots of shades of grey.

      Cheers.

    • Paulo says:

      Nick Kelly,

      Now, remember which Govt did the so-called privatisation? Does the name Mr. Campbell ring a bell?

      For readers, there is also stealth privatisation. When I was out of high school I started to build houses and apartments for a living. I became a carpenter. Every city, town, and municipality would have ‘building inspectors’. Some were dinks, but most of these guys were great. Sometimes they would come around and make some really good suggestions. They inspected before pouring the foundation, the finished framing, and at lockup. Then, the electrical inspectors certified the wiring, etc. A final inspection gave occupancy approval.

      Then came the call to reduce Govt employees, one theme I read all the time on WS. “Govt bad, private good” kind of thing. So now instead of city building inspectors, engineers have to sign off which is a damn sight more expensive than a municipal employee on salary. This is paid for by the builder and eventually the cost is passed on to the buyer. Be careful what you wish for.

      Years ago I worked as the ‘concrete foreman’ for a large condo development in Lethbridge Alberta. Everything was signed of by a private engineering company that was ‘in house’. I saw many illegal practices passed and signed off as okay by the engineer. Coincidentally, this private developer went bankrupt on his race to the bottom. I was also the only one to get paid his last pay cheque as a friendly bank manager froze the funds for me. (I knew her husband).

      • Cas127 says:

        City building/code compliance inspectors are still used all over the place in the US.

      • NBay says:

        Nothing stealth about what’s being done towards cherry picking the US Post Office and leaving the rest to rot.

        PS, met 3 Canada Post guys taking our ECA (a TX sweatshop, under license from AEG Telefunken) OCR class at Tech Center in OK, ’90. They had a much stronger union and didn’t have to make it on all staying in same hotel with meals at certain times, and $7/day per diem. They even had cars, was just as good as making friends with the guys who drove up from TX.
        9 week class. Union that can’t strike is a joke.

  8. MonkeyBusiness says:

    The scammification of everything.

  9. joe2 says:

    Geez. The British can’t get a break from their government. Laws requiring you to quarantine in a firetrap.

    Like tofu buildings in China. I saw the collapsed bridge in Seoul and I knew a dodgy builder in Seoul who make a fortune in bribes.
    So this is pretty wide-spread. And legal liabilities can vary a lot so you have to read the fine print on the sales agreement and homeowners or condo assoc documents.
    I had a deposit down on a nice penthouse with an elaborate glass enclosed balcony. The glass was stained and loose and really needed to be replaced. In the condo where I live in the management is responsible for external windows. In this condo, the tenant was responsible for the windows. During the inspection period, I checked with the firm that originally installed the glass balcony and he told me it could not be replaced because it needed a crane and a crane could not now get close enough to the building. So I passed.

    I bought a Bishop Estate leasehold property in Hawaii (a foreclosure) but sold it before the remaining leasehold period got too short. Otherwise it was an estimated additional 1/3-1/2 of the purchase price to buy it out. I wouldn’t touch a leasehold again.

    Stuff like this comes up much more often that most people realize. At one closing I was reading the fine print on a mortgage and taking my time while everyone else cooled their heels. My wife started kicking me under the table as I was embarrassing her in front of her friends. I gave in, and it cost $2K later to discharge the mortgage early. Her friends had conned her.
    Moral is read everything and trust no one.

  10. Whatsthepoint says:

    We almost moved into Grenfell Towers. My husband said it had a great view. I told my husband ‘over my dead body.’ (Ever seen ‘Escape from New York?). Boy, did I have the mother of ‘I told you so’s’ that June morning! Felt bad for the mother and daughter that moved into the place instead though.

    • Cas127 says:

      “Ever seen Esc from NY”

      Or read “High Rise”…Brit SF novel by Brit JG Ballard

      • Swamp Creature says:

        The movie “Towering Inferno” was a pretty good depiction of what it is like to be in a burning hi rise. When I went into the World Trade Center in 1974 to visit my old man I was thinking of that movie.

  11. David Hall says:

    During the housing crash some owners of new homes in Florida found they had Chinese drywall that emitted hydrogen sulphide gas that is toxic and corrosive. They tried to sell their homes rather than tear out the drywall and install new drywall. Homeowners with above ground termite infestations also tried to sell their homes rather than tear open walls and replace damaged lumber.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Another 1995-2000 FL construction story:

      Defective Chinese copper water pipes (buried under the 4″ slab in FL). When the sub-slab leak happens, in a couple hours, it floods the house with about an inch of water, including drywall.

      There’s considerable water damage (avg of 4-5 friends was $25-30,000 loss)…plus you need to be out of the house for a good deal of the repairs (especially with little kids).

      The “fix” (called repiping) is to intercept water as it enters the home & route it thru the attic & walls. ABSOLUTELY NOBODY breaks up the slab to re-install sub-slab piping.

      I paid $8,000 to “repipe” before I had a catastrophic failure (pre-Covid, I traveled out of the country 2 months/year).

      Surprisingly, Chinese copper pipes don’t appear to be any better than Chinese vaccines. Gosh.

      • roddy6667 says:

        Burying copper pipes in concrete is a bad idea. The concrete corrodes the best of pipes. The pipes should be in a chase or conduit.

        • Javert Chip says:

          roddy6667

          These pipes were actually buried in the FL sand, about an inch under the slab. I agree bare pipes should be in conduit.

          While in Europe for a month, a 1-2mm “pinhole” leak (I still have the section of pipe with the hole), drained 68,000 gallons (4-5 good sized residential pools) of water into the FL sand.

          Of course, this was a hot water line, so it was heated water that drained into the sand. I have solar voltaic which covered most, but not all, the expense.

      • NBay says:

        No absolutes in construction, NONE. I broke up and dug under my slab when I installed the toilet in corner of off grid home, (and bandido septic system in dead of rainy winter). Cinder block outhouse was first thing I built, after having small area of ridge top leveled by cat and lotsa pick and shovel. But then I never worked off a set of blueprints. I usually had some plan sketched for each time I had the money for materials, or had accumulated enough up there. But I didn’t always follow them.
        It’s tough (but creative fun) to build “open ended”, leaving max options/alternatives. But there is also a big advantage to it.
        Beats houses I’ve seen built where future owner keeps paying (and pissing off) construction folks to change original plans when he gets a better idea of what living there will be like.
        Architects even do it, A LOT, and also piss off the construction folks. They hate seeing them come to the job site.

  12. YuShan says:

    I’m renting for £680 /month. But I considered buying a similar sized flat in the same street (I like the location). I could buy one for £240k, which is freaking expensive. Turns out that I then still have to pay about £250 / month in all kinds of fees! And I like the one I have better….

  13. DR DOOM says:

    The “cladding” and “insulation” did not belong on the tower. They were added purely for artificially increasing and inflating an asset . Asset inflation at all costs is the culprit. If the tower esthetic elements were that un-wanted it should have been taken down, not wrapped in a known flammable blanket.This is the real crux of the matter. The report conclusions were the same old common knowledge tripe that have been passed around to the “media” by the very people who enabled the disaster and will never be named. An idiot could have determined the flammability of the “cladding” in their back yard while they were grilling.

    • Paulo says:

      Well, the only alternative to no cladding is bare concrete. Not too many people live in bare concrete buildings.

      I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts the design and engineering were private all the way through. The building was built, money made, profits taken. Then, everyone wants to blame ‘the authorities’. And God help any Govt employee that demands standards and accountability. In Vancouver papers/news all we ever hear is how long it takes to process building permits. Someone has to go through the plans and protect the public. To get around this engineers ‘sign off’. Yet, it still takes months and months to get approvals, and thankfully so.

      There is an old saying in aviation. When people complain about the Air Regs the answer is, “All the rules and regulations are written in blood”. In construction, the regulations are written in failures and mistakes. Death. Collapsed buildings. Stuff like that, unfortunately.

      • Javert Chip says:

        You’d be surprised how many Florida homes are concrete (ok, cinder block). We tend to cover them with paint (or stucco & paint); my old geezer crowd saves the flammable plastic for flamingos on the front lawn.

        When I visited Cuba a couple years ago, among other things, I was struck that 95% of the rural buildings were concrete block (presumably the same is true for cities, with few buildings over 4-stories). They were the only type structures left standing after 65 years of hurricanes and little or no new building. Less than half in the rural areas had window glass (burglar bars, yes; glass, no).

        • NBay says:

          Same way down in Baja. I even saw concrete door/window headers cast on site. But had NEVER seen 1/8-3/32″ (?) rebar. But they were pretty clever at using it, just like I was with 1/4″. Only 2-3 bucks for 20ft.
          And screw buying “dobies”, I got rid of a lot circular food/beverage containers that way. Wire and my time were cheap.
          Smaller contractistas usually live at the building site, too.
          Accommodations get better as they go along, just like at my off grid home project.

      • NBay says:

        Yeah, when I was jumping, there was a big sign in the packing/manifest shed, “Law Of Gravity Strictly Enforced”.

        Also that sign I’m sure you’ve seen;

        “Aviation is inherently safe, but to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of…….” forgot the correct words…

        Same for many of man’s “inventions”.

      • NBay says:

        How’d that happen? I didn’t write it twice.

    • Whatsthepoint says:

      I lived up there at the time and it was sold as a beautification project as in putting lipstick on a pig. I believe new windows were part of it as the old ones rattled and whistled in the wind. It was always a hell hole- a real dumping ground for the Council – they just had to make it look presentable so as not to offend all the gentrifiers in Shepherds Bush not to mention NottingHill. Too bad the £300,000 in savings didn’t go toward sprinklers instead, but that would cut into the back handers.

      • JBird4049 says:

        A high rise without sprinklers?? I’m sorry, but that’s absolutely nuts.

        I think just about any American one has them. What could be the reasoning besides “Profit!” for this? Almost any building can burn. Were they deregulated or is there some gigantic loophole?

        • J7915 says:

          In my experience pre-WW2 apartment buildings in the north end of Manhattan, NYC don’t have sprinklers, not even after wall to wall renovations.

          Trump’s tower on 5th Ave does not either. He helped overturn a law by the State of NY, just before he build the structure. Killed one of his tennants during a fire.

        • fajensen says:

          Greenfell Tower was originally built like a lump of continuously cast concrete with not much (if any) insulation. They could have designed to avoid sprinklers by having no construction elements that could catch fire and burn.

          Cheap, modern, homes for the masses, as they said; It was likely not expected to last more than 30 years tops before being replaced.

          Only, it was never replaced.

          Like with the Boeing 737 MAX, they went and extended the original design beyond the original specifications. Pretending it wasn’t a significant change.

      • Andy says:

        This is actually the truth. The building was an eyesore to the millionaires in their Georgian townhouses half a mile away (London commonly has public projects alongside mansions) and they complained to the council.

        Hence, the tower got wrapped in high-flame tinfoil as a petit cadeau for the well-heeled residents of Kensington.

    • roddy6667 says:

      It is probably against building code to have an uninsulated building. The cladding is the weatherproof wall that protects the building against the rain and snow and channels the water safely away. When it is done right. I doubt if anybody could build a high rise in the UK without insulation or cladding.

  14. A says:

    “deregulation” might have been a good idea in the 1980s. But after 40 years of “deregulation” it’s clear the only things being deregulated is the ability of corporations to literally light your home on fire and kill you for an extra $300,000 in profit.

    Its long past time we got back to punnishing corporate criminals and scammers.

    • Cas127 says:

      A,

      Government’s failure to do its job is all over this one too.

      There is absolutely no reason to believe that multiple parties cannot be miserably worthless and wrong at the same time in any given situation.

      But, in general, the default recipients of money from the larger public (both public and private) always want to shift the blame from failing at their own jobs on to their ideological opponents.

      Thus you get the Kabuki political warfare of so many failing countries, where absolutely nothing changes…most crucially the flow of money along the same old failing channels.

      • Ed says:

        It’s a failure to regulate. The government failed because lobbyists got their way and the knowledgeable parties in the gov’t were ignored or actively sidelined.

        The private industry’s failure was the usual one: profit over any other concern.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Right after deregulation I tried to book a flight to Fla. Called three airlines. They all had the same price down to the penny. Price fixing anyone??????

      • Javert Chip says:

        SC

        I’m really not feeling your pain.

        Any minute of any day of any week, go to SkyScanner (or any other of a zillion travel websites) and you’ll find hundreds of flights between most (major) departure & destinations – you’ll also find hundreds of different fares…out of those hundreds, 3 might be equal. Big deal.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Swampy

          Airline prices were deregulated in 1978 (42 years ago) & you’re still upset?

          You need an adult beverage.

  15. WES says:

    So these towers are really BBQs?

    So now people are locked up in their BBQs?

    This is the weirdest economy ever!87

    • raxadian says:

      No.

      Is the weirdest Barbecue ever!

      Thousands of long pigs, just waiting to get cooked while they are still alive in their BBQ.

  16. lenert says:

    Ironic in a city that has a fire door every couple of metres.

    • Ed says:

      That a country takes fire codes seriously for a few decades or even centuries doesn’t guarantee that the fire codes won’t be allowed to atrophy in the absence of a fire and the pressure of the developers lobby.

      One note. I often read about guys like Claude Wherle, who warned about the dangers or the aluminum cladding but added that his technical concerns were “anti-commercial, it seems.”

      He is actually making a point that needed to be made inside Arconic and, presumably, had made before and been overruled because he knew his complaint was “anti-commercial”. Well, now HE is getting into trouble, instead of the executives who overruled his earlier complaint.

      (I’m not saying he’s blameless. But often the guy caught on email is the one who tried to solve the problem and was overruled. I noticed this in Boeing. Those test pilots didn’t drive the decisions. But the final report from the government acted as though they did and pilloried them for some comments which showed they knew the planes were not ideal. Their position was bad and they might deserve some punishment but it’s nonsense to think those pilots drove the decisions which led to a dangerous plane.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Lenert

      Also ironic in a city (1 of many) that was almost routinely fire bombed in WWII.

    • Xabier says:

      When I was a student in Cambridge, those wretched fire doors were pain: dreadful interruption in carrying ones champagne breakfast through the hostel to one’s room!

      We ended up just propping them open with….fire extinguishers.

      But the very old student rooms -16th and 17th centuries – had no such doors.

      Did they value our lives or not? Hmm…..

      The UK is an embarrassing shambles these days, and, guess what?

      We’ve now lost most of our civil liberties and human rights due to the Covid nonsense.

  17. IanCad says:

    The UK Building Regulations are a pig’s breakfast of confusion. The IBC (International Building Code) should be adopted to prevent other calamities and to educate the UK’s pathetically incompetent architects, contractors, surveyors, project managers, building officials – fire the lot!!
    Better yet, send them to California for training.
    Grenfell is the tip of the iceberg, there are countless newer buildings with timber or Celotex, rainscreen cladding just waiting to ignite.
    The janitor will get the blame.

    • DR DOOM says:

      Another “pigs breakfast” is trying to figure out the non-Constitution , knitted patch work Constitution of England. It takes a London lawyer 5 minutes to explain how there is not really a Constitution except kinda or sort of. Yet their High Court decides Constitional cases. You can lose a case and be out on the street without a clue of what happened.

  18. stan6565 says:

    Purchasers rely on the searches carried out by conveyancing solicitors, who would normally be in charge of the sale/ purchase process. Solicitors searches would normally have to check and confirm whether the subject property had planning permission and also, if it had building regulations permission.

    Additionally, at the point of purchase, lenders would ordinarily commission a thorough survey of the property, carried out by a chartered surveyor, to ensure the fabric of the building and the services were of appropriate standard.

    These solicitors and surveyors owe a duty of care to purchasers, so, there should be some meaty professional indemnity insurances for the hapless purchasers to latch on.

  19. Brad Tifman says:

    Look for the venality behind this: Always about money and power.

    Chicago did this to many thousands of 3-flat owners, and indirectly, renters, in the 00s. After a just recently city inspected porch and stairs collapsed because of a crowded party taking place on it, the city swooped in and began loading people’s properties with fines, “deposits,” and forced rebuilds.

    Overtime, it became apparent that the entire scheme benefited a few connected landlords and developers who snatched up so encumbered properties on the cheap.

    Few porch and stairs were rebuilt. I guess, after the connected ones got their fill, the city turned back to other schemes, like their downtown towing trap and fraud.

  20. Anthony says:

    With 1.93 million “mortgage prisoners” in England alone and maybe a million other properties or more in a zombie state then it must feed through to the buying chain…. Without the people at the bottom then it all stops working…..add massive unemployment with the covid lockdowns and you almost have the perfect storm. All we need then is hyper-inflation followed by interest rate rises….and you do have the perfect storm…

  21. Willy2 says:

    – “Privatisation”. It reminds me of the US mortgage insurers scam and mortgage ratings agencies scam in the timeframe say 1995 – 2008. We all know how that ended ……………
    – Flammable cladding is also a (big) problem in australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane. …………. )

    For some videos on this topic, search YouTube with the words “flammable cladding Australia”

    This is how Capitalism devours itself.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Willy2

      You fail to grasp that ABSOLUTELY ANY “-ism” (capitalism, communism, Willy2ism…) will collapse like this without appropriate regulation (a government function).

      If you’re going to nash you teeth and rend you hair about the failure of the system, at least be intellectually honest enough to include the whole system (ie: regulators).

      Just about any system (financial, mechanical, biological) will self destruct without a meaningful feedback loop (ie: regulation).

  22. Gerry says:

    The thread that runs through theses comments on fire-trap high-rise building cladding and insulation is that silence was golden. Until the Grenfell Tower inferno, why upset the apple cart? That policy of omerta, keeping a secret, applies even more so to Collins Avenue in Florida, especially to Sunny Isles Beach. In a hurricane zone, why would someone build along a two mile stretch of beach facing the Atlantic Ocean over 20 massive condo apartment houses from 40 to 60 stories high? The biggest developer in Sunny Isles Beach is Donald Trump, judging from the names of some of these high rises built in the past 20 years. All dominoes in a row, targets for Mother Nature, one big storm away from disaster.

  23. Whitey says:

    Imagine what kind of world it would be if corporate officers were held personally liable for their business decisions.
    In a situation where their negligence causes death, seize their passports, strip their family wealth and confine them to public housing projects (in a city like Baltimore) and keep them on a basic income for life. No private schools or universities for their kids, either. Public hospitals for the family as well. I suspect the corporate decision makers would smarten up very quickly.

    I narrowly escaped the “leaky condo crisis” that Paulo described. My ex and I sold our unit months before the envelope failure. The assement for our unit (smallest floorplan ) was 50k, with a purchase price of 136k in ’98. The developer had built a series of leaky condos and bolted back to New Zealand to avoid being questioned about his role in it. They use numbered corporations for each project and make sure the accounts are drained before the lawsuits start. Easy enough to fix if the political will exists.

  24. Stephen C. says:

    Great comments today, as with most every other day, but as someone who just last year was contemplating buying a place in a Malaysian high rise (Kuala Lumpur) I’m especially interested in this article. Thanks again, Nick! Malaysia has the lease-hold vs. freehold thingy there as well, so Nick has already given me a red flag to consider.

    I was renting there first to see if I liked it but I noticed that I often was wide-eyed throughout the night wondering, “can this place go up in flames? (It was brand-spankin’ new, which could very imply shoddy materials and construction, due mostly to neoliberal money-games, mainland Chinese investors, and the “everything bubble” that seem to be plaguing most of the world now.)

    Also, a high rise next to mine was going up and an in-country contact said it would be done in 3 months! Not sure how to judge that because the interiors are left to each individual owner. But then I wonder, are there regulations to what kind of appliances and such are added by each owner?

    Questions: One commentator above said in essence, “even a caveman could assess the cladding.” Is is true, that with a bit of You-tubing, a person with zero background in construction be able to look at a building and judge?

    Anyone with experience with Southeast Asia please advise. Thanks!

    p.s. Not implying corruption and shoddy work is limited to Asian and Asians. In fact, much of what I experienced in Malaysia was far superior to what I encounter in USA.

    • Javert Chip says:

      “…Is is true, that with a bit of You-tubing, a person with zero background in construction be able to look at a building and judge?…”

      Short answer: no, not unless you go at it with a blow-torch.

  25. Jeff says:

    Nick and Wolf, thanks for the great article, very informative for me! I’d heard of the building that burned but assumed it was a one-off.

  26. Kenny Logouts says:

    The UK will be having fun with this again in 20 years when all these leasehold ‘normal’ houses built to questionable quality start falling in bits and owners and leaseholders fight about who is liable.

    Right now it looks and feels like UK generic housing stock ticks boxes but is built with the lifespan of a car in mind, while 40+ year mortgages are secured against them.
    You might be 20yrs in with a bank still owning 50pc and be financially under water on it!

    Too much greed from all involved.

    The UK housing market is doomed, and UK gov seem to want to let the unreality carry on by turning a blind eye.

    No doubt the public will be the back stop of last resort – again – while the profiteers get away with their gains.

    If you do your fraud on a big enough scale, government appear to encourage it.

  27. Mira says:

    Before I begin reading ..
    What disorientated, delinquent mind thought up flammable cladding for building use ??
    What irresponsible & corrupt body of regulators signed off on this dangerous product as a viable building material ??

  28. Mira says:

    It hadn’t occurred to me .. the ongoing $$$ costs to secure & monitor a potentially dangerous site.
    It’s like you inherited a fertile skunk.
    📦🦨🙍‍♂️

  29. Mira says:

    Mad Dogs & Englishmen …

  30. Jack says:

    Thank You Nick ,

    This part of Nick’s report attracted my attention!

    “before Christmas there were fewer than 300 fire safety professionals qualified to sign the forms in the whole country”

    For a country of over 60 million people, this is a disgrace, what are we teaching out kids these days? To become the next (Spice Girls)!!!

    Back to the problem with this issue, as can be surmised it is multi faceted problem.

    For a starter there is the ( local government and councils that are NOT equipped with skills and are unfortunately elected on party tickets thereby throwing the “ MERITS “ scale out the door.

    Results bad town planning, bad building control measures bad and ineffective execution of decisions to apply planning and building regulations.

    Time and again you’ll find councilors on the take from developers who have one thing in mind ( and rightly so as they’re operating their businesses) , unlike Mr or Mrs government officials who are there to protect the public and consumers from the wolfs!

    Nick also mentioned the Royal British standard authority which should be the government’s instrument to verify and police ( the adherence to BRITISH and INTERNATIONAL ISO STANDARDS) when dealing with imported or locally manufactured building materials ( here too another government instrument SLEEPING AT THE EFFING WHEEL)!

    Then there is Mr and Mrs consumer, I know, I know , a lot of you going to say ( but we rely on the authorities to do their job and protect us)!!

    But the reality of life has and always will be ,DYOD [DO your own diligence].

    You can’t pass everything to the NANNY STATE TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

    Resolution/s. Also multi faceted.

    – Government chip in( unfortunately to the detriment of the wider TAX PAYERS).

    – Fine and take the Developers to court, if they still in business!

    – seek reparations from the overseas companies via the normal legal channels ( i am afraid this will be a little bit harder now to achieve due to Covid BS and BRIXIT BS)!

    – then there is the tenants who have to pay for there mistakes! Nothing in life is free, and if can’t look after you own affairs and extend you hand asking for help , you’ll have to pay for it one way or another] THIS SOUNDS A BIT HEARTLESS I KNOW ] but it is what it is, life is so unfair and you can’t rely on anybody else to sort you out.

    This Cladding issue has costed the BANANA REPUBLICS OF SOME AUSTRALIAN STATE GOVERNMENTS OVER $500 BILLION last year.

    and yup the taxpayer cops it on the chin while grinning ( or is it screaming).

    Happy new year Mr Corbishley!

    • Jack says:

      Sorry that was $500 Million dollar, and in totals up to a BILLION DOLLARS.

      Apologies

  31. tfourier says:

    Some background details which got almost zero coverage in the UK media at the time.

    Until the 1990’s there were many thousands of mid rise and high rise public housing units built in the 1950’s and 1960’s which had a very low fire risk. They were built of concrete and designed to have very few internal elements that would sustain a fire. Which is why Shelter in Place was the standard procure for residents when a fire broke out. Safest place to be.

    But the Blair Labour government had a whole bunch of “Green Initiatives” and all these big concrete hulks did not meet any of the arbitrary “energy efficiency” goals. None of these buildings could be easily retrofitted to make reach these “energy efficiency” goals. So the government started a programme to cover thousands of buildings in highly inflammable external insulation which eventually costs billions of pounds.

    At the time the government programme was first proposed many architects and structural engineers pointed out that this would create a huge fire hazard. There was no way any of these old concrete high rises could be safely upgraded to meet the new “energy efficiency” regulations. Sooner or later there would be a disaster.

    But the government went ahead anyway. There were several near miss disasters even before Grenfell Towers. Where only through shear good luck did dozens of people not die due to a fire in a building that had been upgraded under the government “energy efficiency “programme. Right after Grenfell Towers I read letters that had been written by multiple Chartered Engineers over the previous decade or more warning that exactly such a fire would happen sooner or later. Absolutely guaranteed. The government, both national and local, as well as the relevant agencies, had been given multiple warning by people with the highest professional credentials that there would be a disaster.

    The other element of the Grenfell Towers fire which was elided over after the fire was that the majority of people who lived in the building were only recent arrivals in the UK. Very few had any real family roots in that part of London. The original tower had built to rehoused local working class people from the immediate area but they were long gone. With any kind of sane housing policy the building would have been sold off years ago and the proceeds used to build far more public housing units in some much cheaper outer London area.

    To give a US city equivalent of the situation. Imagine there was a high-rise pubic housing building in San Fransisco, in Lower Pacific Heights, build many decades ago for those who got rehoused after slum clearance. Now imagine that most of the original tenants were long gone and replaced with Central Americans and refugees. Most rents paid with large tax payer subsides. Thats pretty much what Grenfell Towers was. But if you read the media spin at the time you would have had to dig hard to discover this.

    All those people died because the previous Labour governments “Green” energy policies had very deliberately made an ultra safe building into a death trap. A fact of which the senior government people were told about at the time. On multiple occasions. But that is not how the story was played out in the media. The BBC being the most egregious offender in the spin that it was all the Rich Tories Fault.

  32. Elrig says:

    Unbelievable and unacceptable that the government and building companies are yet to step up and protect these poor people stuck in dangerous building which can be and should be fixed as soon as possible before another tragedy such as Grenfell Tower happens again. There is no excuse for any delay, it will only further burden the NHS if so many people need to seek Mental Health support for being trapped in unsafe living conditions. I can only imagine how much service charge is already being paid out by leaseholders every month just to be able to stay safe. It is not fair for the leaseholders to pay £40,000 fines when it was not them that built the unsafe buildings nor wrongly passed the safety checks. The responsibility needs to be handed to the correct people who have already made their profits and are currently keeping quiet whilst their victims are trapped in unsafe conditions with no place else to go. Shame on the greedy! The government needs to act fast before history repeats itself

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