A continuing hot topic in the construction industry and for obvious reasons within wider society is the management of fire risk in residential buildings. High Risk Residential Buildings will never be the same again, we are at a watershed now in much the same way that the progressive collapse at Ronan Point in 1968, instigated changes to process of regulating construction and gas safety in new buildings.
In 2019, it will be more extensive, as there are greater competing pressures for designers, constructors and operators to address; building safety in construction, building safety in use, energy efficiency in use, energy efficiency in procurement. All the while society’s expectations are rising that reflect the need to improve performance and not repeat mistakes of the past and failures to fully implement the necessary change. As an industry we can no longer be complacent, and where necessary designers and constructors must be prepared to challenge the aspects of “lowest-cost procurement” that lead to shortcuts being made in design, construction, oversight and operations & maintenance.
Central Government has published a consultation document seeking industry input on how to improve fire safety in buildings, particularly high rise buildings over 18m, (that is Ground + five stories), which would now include those flat at Barking Riverside clad in timber and with timber balconies, where twenty flats were destroyed – thankfully no injuries this time. The context though, is that were these last buildings adjacent to each other and within 1m of a boundary (so 2m separation), the flats would have to be clad with non-combustible material.
The photographs above of the effect of a fire in a thatched property remain sobering, but with thatch the risk is all too apparent, but the greater consciousness does not prevent an annual toll of thatched house fires.