Leaked Grenfell report, women in construction, CITB staff cuts + housing crisis.

  • 17 Apr 2018

Howard Chapman - head shotHoward Chapman, Buildingtalk Editor

Our latest Buildingtalk blog includes details from a leaked BRE report on the Grenfell fire; the role of women in building trades; CITB staff cuts and Carillion trainees jobs; plus why planning tweaks won’t tackle the housing crisis.

No fire deaths if Grenfell had not been refurbished

Fullscreen capture 19022018 151516According to a new report, nobody would have died in the Grenfell Tower fire if it had been refurbished properly. The refurbishment turned the original building, that had good passive fire protection, into deadly tinderbox that killed 71 people.

The 210-page interim document undertaken on behalf of fire investigation experts BRE Global has allegedly uncovered major failures caused by below-standard building work at the 24-story tower block in London.

The report says flames from an exploding fridge engulfed the building within minutes, with the fire fanned due to ‘gaps’ in the building’s newly installed cladding and windows.

The fire would not have spread beyond its source and that nobody would have died if the buildings outside had not been re-clad.

High levels of passive fire protection in original building

The report said: “Grenfell Tower, as originally built, appears to have been designed on the premise of providing very high levels of passive fire protection…. there would have been little opportunity for a fire in a flat of Grenfell Tower to spread to any neighbouring flats.

BRE Global Report summary

  • The fire escalated further because the insulation used in the refurbishmentwas actually flammable
  • Only a fifth of the building’s fire doors worked properly
  • Firefighting facilities were below standard and fire fighting water could not be easily fired on all 24 floors
  • Refurbishment failed to meet fire safety standards and ‘deficiencies’ in the new facade helped the fire spread up the building’s exterior
  • Cavity barriers were actually found to have been installed back to front or upside down and were “insufficient” to bridge the gap between the surface of the building and the cladding, helping to spread the flames
  • Window frames were also narrower than the gap they were placed in, meaning the fire could spread around the frame, onto the tower’s facade and back into other flats
  • When residents attempted to flee the fire, many of their flat doors stayed open, enabling the fire to spread into the lobby, while the absence of a sprinkler system and the narrow single internal stairwell also breached building regulations

Women in Building Trades

Most people have never seen a woman working in the building trade.

Fullscreen capture 17042018 090513New research for Able Skills found that most people in the UK have never had their boiler serviced by a woman even though most of these would like to see more female plumbers, electricians and builders – and would trust them more than men to do a good job at a fair price.

  • 88% want to see more women in construction trade roles
  • 72% have never seen a woman working in those industries
  • 84% of women say they have never even considered working in the building trade
  • 31% said they would trust a female worker more to give them the best and fairest price compared to just 14% who would trust a man more

New safety footwear for women

Fullscreen capture 17042018 071613Iconic British footwear brand Dr. Martens is launching a unique women’s industrial collection, providing female workers with a choice of boots, with no compromise on safety. This follows a recent survey commissioned by Trades Union Congress that revealed how few women wear safety shoes.

  • 29% of women wear PPE specifically designed for them
  • 57% say their current PPE has actually hampered their work

Read more about the new Women’s Collection from Dr. Martens

CITB staff cuts but new jobs for Carillion trainees

Fullscreen capture 17042018 080405Today the CITB unveiled its three-year Business Plan, a reforming programme of work designed to modernise its business and relentlessly focus on skills. The CITB will reduce its staff numbers by more than half, the new business plan has revealed. The restructure plans follow a government review published in January but the job cuts have only just been revealed. CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said the changes did not represent a downsizing of operations. The report outlines how CITB will become the focused, strategic skills body for British construction.

Sarah Beale also praised the industry’s response to the recent collapse of Carillion. Over 80% of the Carillion apprentices who had found themselves out of work have now been found new positions.

Planning tweaks won’t tackle UK housing crisis

Fullscreen capture 17042018 081253Take a look at Jonathan Ford’s insightful piece for the Financial Times that explains why planning tweaks will not tackle Britain’s chronic housing shortage.

He explains how the Government have tried various wheezes to spur construction and they have bunged billions of taxpayers’ cash at a “Help to Buy” home equity loan scheme, that helps homebuyers pay today’s very high house prices, and thus keeps sales flowing despite their growing unaffordability.

There have been planning reforms aplenty aimed at unblocking new sites for development. But it is hard to say that these have fixed the broken housing market.

The result has mainly been a lot of happy housebuilding executives, such as Jeff Fairburn, the boss of Britain’s largest firm, Persimmon. He recently collected £100m through a controversial long-term incentive plan after a string of record profits”.

Jonathan believes that we need wider changes to the incentives that operate in the land market. Until someone grips that challenge, prices will stay high and an evident public need will not be met.

Read more here.

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