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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:07 pm 
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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_riser

Dry Risers are pipes pressurised and used by firefighters. They're no use if the fire is already gutting the building. Hoses have the water pre pressurised and usually stored somewhere within, making them useful.

Video has emerged of a fire crew responding, with one firefighter inside saying "how is that possible?"

I think that says it all.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:04 pm 
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Say what you will about american safety regulations in general, but speaking from an architectural experience, our fire codes are actually a bit more strict than in most European countries, mostly due to several tragic early 20th century events.

Generally 'dry risers' are a parallel system, used in addition to the always pressurized sprinkler system. Also, I've read that this building had a single, very long egress path - generally anything more than 3 floors or with an occupancy greater than a single family home will require two egress paths here, with a maximum distance to access them. A building of this size would generally have 4 fire-rated stairs. In New York, that would have been the mandate even under the 1916 code, let alone the 1965 code that would be contemporaneous with this building. As the UK had very few high rise building before the 60s, I can understand why its fire codes may not have been adequate for this type of construction at the time. However, as both managing party for the building and the local governing body, the council had a double responsibility to ensure that this structure remained safe to the best current practices, even if that means expensive retrofits or replacement of the structure. The use of a non-rated material for a renovation is simply beyond the pale - a major renovation is a imperative to bring old buildings up to code, not an opportunity to regress. Even if the cladding is just one contributing factor among many, some party must have approved its use - which is criminal negligence at best (personal opinion, not a legal one).

I sincerely hope that this tragedy will spur the implementation of more rigorous fire codes in the UK. I know it may be tricky in many instances, as there is a large amount of historic buildings that preservationists will be loath to cover in fire-escapes etc, but there are ways to engineer buildings to be both safe and attractive in any style. I also hope that lessons learned in this case will also be applied globally. So far, I have not been following this story much on here or in British news so much as I have in discussions with other architects and industry news sources. Ultimately, however, the safest codes are only as good their enforcement, and if an governing body does not have a will to protect its residents, there is little to compel anyone else to adequately perform that duty.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 3:22 am 
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supermop wrote:
Say what you will about american safety regulations in general, but speaking from an architectural experience, our fire codes are actually a bit more strict than in most European countries, mostly due to several tragic early 20th century events.

If this building was properly compliant. The fire should have been contained to the flat the fire started in. I live in a flat block of 4 flats, 2 ground floor and 2 above, and even this will contain fires to the flat it occurs in, flats in every direction can be safely occupied during a fire in the others (although i'd probably do a runner despite that knowledge).
This should have been true for Grenfell, especially considering it was a concrete giant, and concrete is inherently good at containing fires regardless of regulations.

However it was a warm night and many flats would have had their windows open, security isn't a concern for having your windows wide open when you're 50 foot in the air. It's also reported that the fridge 'exploded', this could mean a few things considering peoples opinion. on what exploding is, however a modern fridge that uses the new style environmentally friendly gases can explode with enough ferocity to blow out windows if it was near to them, faulty fridges are fairly common occurence throughout the world and this has been proven many times. So wether the window was open to start with or it was opened through force, it almost certainly spread externally, then through open windows until the fire gained enough ferocity to burn out the windows itself.

Chances are, the building itself was structurally sound and met fire regulations, and the only reason this occured was due to the cladding, which may actually have been banned for UK use anyway for a building of that height (if not entirely), so don't be too sure to blame the safety regulations, chances are they were entirely, possibly willfully, ignored here.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:00 pm 
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Redirect Left wrote:
Chances are, the building itself was structurally sound and met fire regulations, and the only reason this occured was due to the cladding, which may actually have been banned for UK use anyway for a building of that height (if not entirely), so don't be too sure to blame the safety regulations, chances are they were entirely, possibly willfully, ignored here.


Most of the 'meat' of modern fire codes are less about building materials that do not burn, and rather about providing sufficient safe means of egress. I have no doubt that this building met all applicable codes for its jurisdiction at the time it was built, but it seems that either that the means of egress, or the policy of how to evacuate, were actually insufficient in practice. My hope is that in the case of these two areas, the applicable codes will be updated with lessons learned. Fire codes generally do not aim to prevent any and all fires from starting, but rather to slow its spread so that occupants can safely exit, and firefighters may safely enter. Every few decades they must be updated as the construction industry learns more about the best ways to do so, and a renovation of a building built to an earlier code should require it to incorporate elements of the newer code. On this last point, I do not know if this is currently mandated in British law, but hopefully it will be.

If the cladding was installed counter to applicable code at the time, there likely is a legal culpability for those that approved it. If a ban on a material is regularly waived, essentially that ban is not actually in effect. If there is no review or enforcement to ensure that projects are working to meet code, effectively those codes do not exist.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:10 pm 
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supermop wrote:
Most of the 'meat' of modern fire codes are less about building materials that do not burn, and rather about providing sufficient safe means of egress.

This. It just happens that they're following a different way of thinking. IF they didn't install the petrol-like cladding, the fire won't spread at all, or spread only to a small extent (not the whole inhabitted area). Consider that they've made a "stay put" measure to fight fires - let's say that other places didn't put it up that way. The problem was something along an oversight - it was deemed impossible that a fire comes from the outside (for all reasons, in all the other rooms in Grenfell Tower this was the case), and so when the inevitable happens, the measures put up fall useless.

I hope the English Parliament can get their thoughts properly together. Just for this one. Please.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:13 pm 
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If I ever had to live in a high rise building, I would get myself a rope ladder (or one made with chains) that reaches to the ground from my apartment window.

Or a good rope and some rappelling gear depending upon how high up I was.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:28 pm 
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Horrible accident.
BTW, I hope that every persons responsible to this tragedy will be prosecuted. Somebody decided to put these highly flammable panels, somebody signed final acceptance papers...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:17 pm 
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Train<In>Vain wrote:
If I ever had to live in a high rise building, I would get myself a rope ladder (or one made with chains) that reaches to the ground from my apartment window.

Or a good rope and some rappelling gear depending upon how high up I was.


Incredibly common on the continent, but they become rather large over about five storeys. They're not that common in London, although notably my last flat had one because the garden was enclosed (no access) so evacuating that way didn't meet regulations. My only exit to the front was via two roof windows, which isn't a simple escape under pressure.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 11:56 pm 
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I remember a device that was once used on US embassies: a fabric tube mounted in a frame hanging off the edge of the roof of the building. I wish I could remember the name of it. Imagine a long sock, open on both ends, just big enough for a person to fit into. Once deployed, to get from the roof to the ground, you simply step into the sock and slide all the way down. The diameter of the sock was just snug enough to cause just enough friction to maintain a safe speed. Anyone ever see one of these? It seems daft but it works. They made us go down one as part of our training and everybody got down OK.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:43 am 
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It's probably nothing more than a fire evacuation chute. They're common equipment on fire engines as they fold up really compactly, but I don't know if buildings themselves have them in the UK as part of the fire defense kits. I'm also not sure how high they can actually go, at a certain height, even if they do maintain a suitable speed all the way down, eventually people will get nervous over height and potential failures leading to someone dropping a high fall.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:10 am 
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As good an idea as these chutes and ladders sound, surely they aren't really required in a high-rise building of modern standards? After all, aren't high-rise buildings designed to contain a fire in a room for a minimum of 1 hour?

Of course, as this was a freak event that didn't happen, but in 99% of similar events, surely this would work?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:43 am 
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It is probably the case in UK. Not even sure down here.

If it's anything, is it possible to go down lift shatf(s) instead ? They're structurally very sound I presume ?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:37 pm 
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In many cases, the lift will automatically shut itself off in case of fire alarm, so no one uses it. So you'd only get so far before the lift was in your way and isn't moveable. You'd also need to force the doors open, probably easy at your start point, but doing the same from the inside lower down wil be awkward. The top of lift shafts is usually not an emergency exit to the outside.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:55 pm 
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Redirect Left wrote:
In many cases, the lift will automatically shut itself off in case of fire alarm, so no one uses it. So you'd only get so far before the lift was in your way and isn't moveable. You'd also need to force the doors open, probably easy at your start point, but doing the same from the inside lower down wil be awkward. The top of lift shafts is usually not an emergency exit to the outside.


Elevators typically remain operable in a fire, but occupants should not use them. Most will have a visible, or hidden key-switch for 'fireman operation'. In high rise rescues where the elevator is still usable, firefighters will use them to travel to higher floors to search for an retrieve trapped occupants. Occupants should avoid their use because a) the fire department will need unfettered access to them, and b) should the fire cause a loss of power, the occupants could become trapped in a confined space with limited fresh air and no means of communicating their location. Obviously in large conflagrations the fire department will forgo use of elevators, but they have the training and judgement to determine when to use them, whereas a panicking occupant likely does not.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:58 pm 
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Whilst lift shafts are fireproof they're a horrible place to be trapped - have you not seen the bit in Die Hard...!

I used to work for the company that managed my student halls. 424 rooms. Every door in that building was fire rated to 60 minutes.

A pre-alarm would sound in individual flats only to ask people to sort out the issue, or go outside and raise the alarm through a fire point. Even then, the next step was to evacuate the individual block, the idea being that 400+ panicking teenagers makes a fire situation way, way worse. Also, since most alarms were false activations, evacuating the entire complex every time was undesirable (another halls elsewhere DID have that issue where the fire brigade was ALWAYS called regardless, causing massive problems).

I was witness to one fire - some guy had started to cook but had forgotten something so put his frying pan in the oven to go to the shop. Flatmate came in and turned the oven on to cook a pizza without checking what was inside. Instant melted frying pan handle and burning oil. We handled that smartly but the fire brigade did turn up to resolve it. Most of the building didn't even know it had happened. Now you might question the wisdom of both people there, but neither acted maliciously or even that far outside of reasonable sense, it was just an unfortunate combination of circumstances.

What I'm getting at is "stay put" isn't a dangerous instruction in a building designed to contain a fire to one space for several hours.

When you introduce something that changes the fabric of the building, you have to re-assess the fire risk. That's what didn't happen here.

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Elevators typically remain operable in a fire


In Britain at least, most buildings have lifts which return to the ground floor and stop operating. The fireman operation key switch is to merely override that. A lot of government offices have specially rated fire lifts, which have enhanced protection to allow the evacuation of injured or disabled occupants.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 3:10 pm 
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Dave wrote:
Whilst lift shafts are fireproof they're a horrible place to be trapped - have you not seen the bit in Die Hard...!

It's not ideal but I presume it's just because none are optimized for it. I mean, let's be honest, in houses typically you'll find at least one room in that same shaft alignment - it's meant to be the strongest part of the house, again.

Eh, but who knows ? Maybe the only way out is to actually asses it IRL. Which I don't have powers to. Yet...

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:08 pm 
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Hello
YNM wrote:
Dave wrote:
Whilst lift shafts are fireproof they're a horrible place to be trapped - have you not seen the bit in Die Hard...!

It's not ideal but I presume it's just because none are optimized for it. I mean, let's be honest, in houses typically you'll find at least one room in that same shaft alignment - it's meant to be the strongest part of the house, again.

The problem being in a lifts cabin during a fire is not the strengthness or weakness of the lift shaft, it's the smoke in it. The shaft is an air pipe and the trapped people in the lift cabin will suffocate within a short time.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:19 pm 
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Dave wrote:
Train<In>Vain wrote:
If I ever had to live in a high rise building, I would get myself a rope ladder (or one made with chains) that reaches to the ground from my apartment window.

Or a good rope and some rappelling gear depending upon how high up I was.


Incredibly common on the continent, but they become rather large over about five storeys. They're not that common in London, although notably my last flat had one because the garden was enclosed (no access) so evacuating that way didn't meet regulations. My only exit to the front was via two roof windows, which isn't a simple escape under pressure.


Belated thanks to Dave for this interesting info.

@Redirect Left: thanks for the info about fire evacuation chutes. Hope I never have to use one again.

I just read that Three buildings have been found to be covered in the same combustible material used on the outside of Grenfell Tower, and 600 tower blocks across England are covered in similar cladding, based on estimates provided by local governments. However, it isn’t yet clear how many are combustible.

Those aren't very good odds against another similar tragedy, in the short term at least.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:48 pm 
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Dave wrote:
Quote:
Elevators typically remain operable in a fire


In Britain at least, most buildings have lifts which return to the ground floor and stop operating. The fireman operation key switch is to merely override that. A lot of government offices have specially rated fire lifts, which have enhanced protection to allow the evacuation of injured or disabled occupants.


Exactly what I meant - operable in the sense that they mechanically can function if required.

Dave wrote:
Every door in that building was fire rated to 60 minutes.


60 minutes actually sounds low for this time of building. I would have assumed that individual unit doors might be 1 hour, but that corridor and stairwell doors would be at least 90 if not 120 minutes. There are also different ratings for fire and smoke penetration. Some areas may require more substantial protection from smoke infiltration if they are a refuge area.

Dave wrote:
When you introduce something that changes the fabric of the building, you have to re-assess the fire risk. That's what didn't happen here.


This is the crucial point for any fire code (or other building code) enforcement. Typically it is not that hard to build a new building to the correct code, it's rather shortcuts, ignorance, or difficulty in renovating an old building to bring it up to modern compliance that cause hard to catch problems, so this is where inspectors and plan examiners must be especially vigilant. It its too easy to think, "this stair has been fine for 50 years, we aren't altering it, we don't need to worry about it...". It is the job of the local regulatory authority, whatever it may be, to be the obnoxious contrarian and force you to spend the extra money or re-engineer this or that. I am not sure who was responsible for enforcing these standards in this case, but it seems either they did not go over the project with a fine enough comb, or the stakeholders were somehow able to evade their oversight...

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:01 pm 
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Auge wrote:
Hello
YNM wrote:
It's not ideal but I presume it's just because none are optimized for it. I mean, let's be honest, in houses typically you'll find at least one room in that same shaft alignment - it's meant to be the strongest part of the house, again.

The problem being in a lifts cabin during a fire is not the strengthness or weakness of the lift shaft, it's the smoke in it. The shaft is an air pipe and the trapped people in the lift cabin will suffocate within a short time.

Thank you. I'm not trying to get people down on the lift - dangers of getting the motors fail are higher in distress conditions I presume - I was just thinking if it was possible to somehow escape from the inside. The case with Grenfell is rather unique where the fire spreads outside, and retrofitting a wide staircase isn't going to happen (nor would it help given the layout), so the only room left would be the lift shafts. I mean, if it wasn't for the stairs, emergency exit shafts are also shafts with just similar properties to lift shafts and is just as chimney-ish.

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