Government failure: A presentation to our Inquiry by an expert witness
Dr Jonathan Evans is an expert witness on flammable cladding who is often quoted in the media on these issues (see below).
He attended the interim meeting of the Barking Reach Residents Association resident-led Inquiry into the fire in Samuel Garside House held on the 4th March 2020
The slide show he presented, below, was entitled: “Don’t worry it meets the building regulations”.
These were precisely the type of comments with which Bellway Homes and Pinnacle Places had been responding to residents on the Barking Riverside estate, when they raised concerns about fire safety, despite the fact that the balconies presented a real risk to life. This is documented in the report given here, particularly on this page.
Dr Evans stated that the fire in Barking Riverside was significant because it made clear what should in any case have been obvious, that balcony fires can be a danger to life, and should be clearly considered to be part of the external wall structure for the purposes of building regulations — at present this is not clear, as his slide show demonstrates.
As the Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire showed, simply worded building regulations are abundantly clear – the external walls of a building should adequately resist the spread of fire. Under pressure from the government, however, this clear, one page of regulation had become submerged in a morass of government “guidance”, whose purpose was to aid the profitability of big business in the powerful building trade sector, even at the expense of lives.
Thus the building regulation stating that external walls should adequately resist fire, under government “guidance” is transformed into its opposite. In Approved Document B, Vol 2:2006, the talk is of “limited combustibility”.
Dr Evans shows in one slide that the guidance on regulation “B4” actually suggests timber cladding up to 18 meters on tower blocks “is also acceptable“, a proposal so recklessly foolish that, as Dr Evans states, the whole B4 regulation needs to be rewritten.
It should have been rewritten after the Lakanal House fire, he stated, which killed six people. but was not, and the Grenfell Tower fire therefore followed with the deaths of 72 people.
Dr Evans goes on to show that there are attractive and safe alternatives to the wooden cladding on the houses on the estate surrounding Samuel Garside House.
Test of HLP cladding
Not long after attending our Inquiry, Dr Evans, technical committee chair of the Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association, organised the first actual live test of the high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding system which is believed to be in use on thousands of buildings. The HPL “dramatically failed a safety test, with flames ripping through a nine metre test rig in under eight minutes.” Inside Housing, Widely used HPL cladding system dramatically fails official fire test, 30/03/20
The study was widely covered in the media such as the BBC: Grenfell cladding not the only type to burn easily, tests show