Friday, 4 August 2017

Second Fire At The Torch Building in Dubai: Lessons Re Grenfell Tower

There has been a second fire in the cladding of the "Torch" residential building in Dubai. The good news is that, once, again, staff and the the Dubai Civil Defence force was able to evacuate the building without loss of life.

Although it is clear that the exterior cladding material used on this building (as an afterthought to the original design) hopelessly compromises any fire-containment policy, it appears that the basic structure, layout and evacuation scheme for the building are all very sound: nobody was told to stay in their apartment for an hour or more during the fire, and the policy of evacuating residents immediately was carried out without compromising access to the building by fire crews. (Ie: the architect's access scheme is good enough to allow this.)

The second fire is proof that the cladding is a bad thing and should be removed from buildings on a global basis, and also proof that the policy adopted by the emergency services at Grenfell Tower, of keeping people in their flats, was heavily misguided and lacked all common sense, the product of a "public service" mentality which treats the public like sheep. There needs to be a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade on the night: not all of the liability lies with the Borough Council, Property Management Company and the firms that peddled the death-trap cladding around the United Kingdom and far beyond!

As regards all future buildings: the Torch building should be looked at carefully: not because it caught fire twice, but because everyone got out, twice, which implies that the evacuation policy expressed in the design is sound, and that what the emergency services did on the night, was sensible and sound.

Additionally, it seems that in two fires, fire and smoke from burning cladding didn't penetrate into the building and especially stairwells, anything like as badly at the Torch as it did at Grenfell Tower, and the most likely explanation is that the windows and especially window-frames, were better quality and more fire-resistant.

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