Scottish building fire safety of a 'lower standard' than England

16 October 2018

THE GRENFELL inquiry was told by CS Todd Fire Safety Consultants that fire safety rules for buildings in Scotland are of a ‘lower standard’ than England’s.

Recently, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed once more, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans for the tower were not able to be found in the lobby of the buildingIt then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.

After that, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, and commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite a London Fire Brigade (LFB) presentation created only a year before the fireMost recently, the inquiry heard that an exercise scheduled for 8 June 2017 at the tower was ‘shelved’ after it clashed with another at a London prison.

The Courier has now reported on the ‘intervention’ by CS Todd after the newspaper had revealed expert concerns about flammable insulation in the roof of the V&A Dundee building, with Press and Journal stating that this insulation ‘has been linked to’ the spread of the Glasgow School of Art fire as well as Grenfell Tower.

While the museum stated that it was ‘fully compliant with all existing building standards’, the use of combustible polyisocyanurate (PIR) has been ‘warned against’ by fire safety experts and firefighters. The Fire Brigades Union stated in a government submission that the material has ‘unusual burning characteristics’, with ‘most of the best’ such materials ‘also easily ignited and very combustible’.

The Scottish government recommended external walls of ‘entertainment and assembly buildings’ have material that meets ‘at least’ Euroclass A2, ‘four notches above’ that used on the V&A, with CS Todd’s intervention at the inquiry citing this and the Scottish Domestic Technical Handbook’s fire safety guidelines ‘unfavourably’ to Approved Document B (ADB) of the Building Regulations in England.

Its submission said: ‘I would note that, for non-domestic high-rise buildings (including hotels, student accommodation, offices, etc), the fire performance of external cladding recommended in the Non-Domestic Technical Handbook is of a lower standard than recommended in ADB, in that it may be either Class 0 or Euroclass B.

‘While, arguably, there might be greater clarity in the Scottish guidance, in terms of fire performance of external wall construction, such as to limit the potential for spread of fire from one floor to another over the surface of the wall, there is little or no material difference between Scotland and England in the means by which this should be achieved in high rise blocks of flats.’

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish building standards system currently calls for external wall cladding systems of high rise domestic buildings to be constructed of non-combustible products. We are also considering the responses to our recent building standards consultation looking at what standards we should expect in buildings of multiple occupancy, particularly where the residents may be more vulnerable or have limited mobility, to help us make our buildings safer.’

Scottish building fire safety of a 'lower standard' than England