June 2017 marked the date where the horrifying news of skyscraper tower blazed in fire had sparked the attention of most people primarily to those who invested in the high-rise building – Grenfell Tower. The foreseen disaster had engulfed with it 80 innocent lives. A cladding method for insulation, a main cause for the horrific Grenfell fire. The fire that starts from human selfishness.
MONEY VS LIFE – WHICH IS MORE VALUABLE
The rapid fire was influenced heavily using cladding as one of their exterior wall. Even though there is high risk of flammability of the material, the cladding is famously known for its low cost, which reduces the expenditure of the constructions as well as increasing net profit.
The stakeholders involved in the case are the residents, construction companies, and government bodies. The residents would want an economical place to live in. Local authority Building Control department target to achieve the most financial gain (more money). Government is interested in saving energy by reducing the usage of electricity needed for heat generation.
The relevant values include public well-being, sustainability of energy, and moral codes of engineers. The most intense issue in this particular scenario is the feasibility of cladding as a construction material. The rising options for action are; (1) installing cladding in place of accustomed construction materials such as steel and concrete and (2) maintaining construction with standard establishment procedures which are highly emphasizing the safety factor.
According to theory of utilitarian ethic; one should consider to come to a decision where the greatest happiness for the most individuals involved. This means when we have a sea of choices, we have to pick the best course of action for everyone’s satisfaction. In this particular case, each person in this world love to minimize expenses and gain more profit which is justifying the selection of the cladding at the first place. The cladding material is inexpensive, durable, and light when compared to the steel and concrete. The material also helps insulating the tower, and as a result, the government could save more on energy expenses. Besides, from the laboratory test point of view, the material solely does not impact on the large scale of fire destruction.
Hence, the decision making was majorly influenced by the vote of the residents before the construction began (low-cost cladding) and supported by test results that show the material is compliance with laws and legislations, these altogether promote the framework of the building to be justifiably reasonable. It is rational to argue that the fire spreading out and affecting the whole tower does not happen because of the cladding used, but rather because of other reasons.
A Life costs £62.50?
Cladding[2,3,4]. A well-known cause of fire around the world where buildings turn into infernos in matter of time. Disappointing when similar event of fire had occurred beforehand such as Lacrosse building and Dubai’s Address Hotel. Even in the UK itself, Lakanal House Fire accident where same pattern of fire spread is observed. Portrays how responsibility being ignored. Are 6 fatalities being not enough to open their eyes? It is unacceptable how the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) could go on with the renovation without evaluating the fire hazard. Local authority Building Control department is also held responsible in how the safety check of the building especially in term of fire risks. Arrogance and lack of responsibility may be the core problem surrounding this catastrophe.
London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority had warned the consequences of the aluminium based cladding insulation. The combustible Reynobond polyethylene (PE) plastic insulation implemented aids the fire spreading causing the time needed to engulf the whole building in just 15 minutes. Which is already been banned by the German and US on specified height building. Grenfell Action Group (GAG) had already sent reports to Kensington Fire Station and KCTMO. However, their voices were ignored and worse, declined the request regarding the independent safety adjudication.
Alternative? First, better decision making is essential. This is applied where based on the supplier itself (Omni Exteriors), Reynobond FR (fire resistance) is available for just £2 more compared to the Reynobond PE plastic chosen. In addition, regulations involving cladding should could been established sooner. Fire Protection Association (FPA) and Building Research Establishment initiative towards the government in making the regulation was thrown down the drain. Besides, awareness of the material hazard must be understood before implementing it in a large scale. Further test of cladding should be done checking its compatibility and reliability with real life situation.
In this case, freedom principle was betrayed when £2 cheaper aluminium-based material was chosen. Indeed, people love cheaper alternatives and make more profit despites of a higher fire risks would arise. However, this small happiness in saving some can be easily vanished after accident affecting the family of victims in accepting the deaths. Intuitively, innocent residents were not explained by the authority of the fire risk of the cheaper cladding method and made poor decision based on one aspect, price.
Summing up the facts, there is nowhere near a cut of £5000 in cost can be relevant with the outcome of fatalities. Due to lack of judgement and guideline in balancing between Risk vs Benefit. This urge the need to take immediate response and improvisation from past mistakes. As if the action in enactments of regulations had been done earlier, the outcome of the accident may be greatly differed. Fire hazard tests and renovations later on onto 600 flats suspected to use the same material around the UK will surely contribute more cost. It was ridiculous that a 100% failure rate was obtained from the first 75 buildings tested.