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Not what anyone wanted: Observations on regulations, standards, quality and experience in the wake of Grenfell

Christopher Gorse and John Sturges: Construction Research and Innovation, Issue 3


While many factors will have contributed to the catastrophe at Grenfell Tower, it is clear that the structure itself behaved in a way that no one could possibly have intended. In this article the authors sample the bewildering and sometimes apparently contradictory directions provided by building regulations, and review how fire safety precautions, while seeming adequate on paper, can be undermined on contact with observed on-site practice.

The standards and regulations of the UK construction industry are highly regarded internationally but the Grenfell Tower fire has called into question the industry’s procedures, their enforcement and the quality of UK construction. The events of 14 June 2017 led to an unprecedented loss of life. Without second guessing the enquiry, there are some obvious problems: the external facing materials including the cladding combusted too easily, the fire spread rapidly both vertically, laterally and through the building, there was little resistance to the spread of fire and it was difficult to extinguish. Almost every aspect of the industry’s safeguarding regulations and procedures appear compromised or overlooked. With hundreds of buildings considered to be at risk and the many cladding systems now condemned, it is evident that the industry is either unaware of the regulations and standards that apply or is neglecting responsibility for fire safety. Questions must be answered and the tragedy of Grenfell must be acknowledged to restore confidence in industry standards and processes.

Close up of Grenfell Tower on 16 June 2017 (credit: ChiralJon/Wikimedia Commons).

The full paper can be viewed at the following link