Blazes beset timber clad housing blocks

The social housing sector’s confidence in the safety of its residential stock has been badly shaken after a number of fires destroyed or badly damaged a number of developments over the course of the Summer months.

Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, it has been a huge relief to tenants, leaseholders, landlords and their staff that there has been no loss of life in the fires. But fleeing your home, at any time of day or night has proven to be a traumatic experience.

A common feature has been the focus on the use of timber as a material either in the main construction, or as cladding on the walls and balconies of the buildings.

Most of the fires have been in the capital, starting in June on a sunny Sunday morning when Samuel Garside House in Barking, east London was badly damaged. More recently fires broke out at blocks in Sutton and Hackney, on either side of London as timber clad buildings went up in flames.

Back in early August, fire ravaged through the Beechmere retirement and care home in Crewe, Cheshire. The complex was home to 150 elderly people and had only been opened ten years earlier.

Also in Hackney, the council announced it was decanting 41 households from Bridport House in order to replace “incorrect insulation” on the block. It was opened in 2011 and had won several design awards. But reflecting the more cautious and risk averse environment now pervading, the council decided to take a safety first approach.

While the Government has been consulting on what is the right height to insist on the fitting of water sprinklers in new buildings, there surely needs to be a more thorough review of safety measures in all buildings. This cannot be limited to just newly built blocks of flats.

By Patrick Mooney, Editor