Consulting engineer’s 41 #Grenfell questions demand answers

grenfell after

Paul Follows is a hugely experienced Consulting Structural Engineer, Forensic Specialist and Residential Refurbishment Designer who has taken a keen professional and personal interest in the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower and its aftermath. He has used his expertise to put together a comprehensive list of questions that demand answers if the victims and survivors of Grenfell are to have anything approaching justice.

And for the security of every person living in a high rise in this country and beyond.

Explaining why he put together the list and sent it to the SKWAWKBOX, Mr Follows said:

Anything less than complete thoroughness could cause problems again and potentially mean other towers are still at some risk if the emphasis is narrow rather than as complete as possible. ie a full investigation of all parts.

I want to ensure ‘no stone is unturned – a full, thorough and complete” assessment. The danger with forensics is that causes are found and then the investigation isn’t as comprehensive as it could be.

Eg they find three things wrong but don’t look at others. For example, I know resin can melt at high temperatures and therefore fixings fall out in fires. Would anyone check that? Possibly, possibly not.

Grenfell sent my mind into overdrive, given what I know in the industry. I’ve worked for a main Contractor, Design Consultancy, represented clients, supervised demo, done forensic/defect assessments. I’ve seen all sides – on huge projects and tiny.

It really helps with this sort of thing. I’ve seen close up all the games all the parties play – from detailed design of nuts and bolts to seeing Contractors’ material grading scams, to finding loopholes in contracts and specifications etc.

So we need a thorough analysis of Grenfell to be sure that everything is understood, nothing is overlooked that might cost lives in future.

Kensington & Chelsea Council’s website states that the work was “Complete-Not approved” So any assumption that the Council Design and Construction gets signed off on their buildings is open to further investigation and serious concern. This issue should form part of the criminal investigation for manslaughter.

Grenfell Tower Building Regs stage was carried out under a “Building Notice” which I find utterly shocking. Geoff Wilkinson is quoted in the Grenfell Tower Fire Wikipedia page as saying this is “wholly innapropriate” and as anyone in this field knows is absolutely correct.

On twitter I have watched footage of a 1984 TV report exposing this exact issue of flammable panels. Apparently there is one dated 1974 but I haven’t seen that one.

Numerous experts like architect Sam Webb and Fire Safety expert Arnold Tarling have been flagging up this exact issue for years to whoever will listen, including the British Standards Institute (in a 2014 lecture) and Government (re Building Regs)

The residents understood the risks and also pleaded with KCTMO (private landlords having political Councillors as it’s Directors) to use non flammable panels.

Four consecutive Govt Ministers were informed re Building Regs flaws.

The previous London Tower fire with these panels caused many recommendations to be produced. The Building Regs update did not happen. It was postponed and postponed under a Conservative Government regularly and openly criticising “Health and Safety bureaucracy”.

The refusal of successive Governments over a 40 to 50yr period to get a grip on this specific issue is frankly extremely perverse given how obsessed and pedantic Building Control can be over the smallest matters.

It appears from news reports that the flammable panels have been used on private buildings too, including hotel tower blocks.

This makes the situation even more bizarre.

Sam Webb was involved in looking at Ronan Point and helped (I believe inadvertently) to uncover the Poulson Affair which exposed fraud across the political spectrum in relation to Mr Poulson’s Architectural Design Company and contracts. Had it not crossed political lines it would have brought down the Government.

Mr Follows’ list is a long one and worth every second it takes to read.

Please share this widely. We need to build a clamour for substantive answers that cannot be ignored:

  1. Why were there “power surges” in Grenfell Tower previously?
  2. When those power surges knocked out the electrics why did (residents claim) the emergency lights not come on?
  3. Why did KCTMO get their solicitor to write a “cease and desist” letter to the residents who wanted fire safety improvements and warned that a catastrophic fire could envelop them?
  4. How much more profit is there in one panel type compared with another?
  5. Who signed off procurement of the panels on behalf of the Council?
  6. Who specified the external windows?
  7. What risks were noted in the Designers Risk Assessment as not ‘designed out’ or non generic and remaining?
  8. Did the Contractors receive that?
  9. Was there a Tender process?
  10. If so did Rydon Construction win these Contracts on the back of the cheaper panels or was it a like for like tender process.
  11. Did the panel supplier know where the panels were being installed? Is their paperwork to prove that?
  12. Are current panel safety tests adequate?
  13. Do the panels give off sufficient volume of poisonous gases (eg cyanide) to kill.
  14. Are they tested for this?
  15. Were the panels ordered the same ones delivered?
  16. Were the ones delivered the ones fixed?
  17. Did any come from other sites? If so, were they the same as those ordered?
  18. Is the panel flammability tested on both faces and the inner polyethylene core?
  19. Who makes the panels and what controls are there that the correct materials are used in the panel production?
  20. Have any Council or KCTMO employees received gifts etc from Rydon Construction? If so who, what, when, why, where?
  21. Are there any conflicts of interest between the Council, KCTMO and Rydon?
  22. Are all parties adequately experienced and trained?
  23. How many panels arrived on site together and where/how were they stored?
  24. Who designed the panel fixings…all panel questions above apply to the panel fixing components as well 
  25. Were the cladding fixings secured to the building with chemical fixings that can melt in a fire?
  26. Collating various press releases there seems to be one Contractor who wins many of these panel/tower refurb Contracts in the public sector. The press articles link that company to the installation of the flammable panels. It will therefore be crucial to see how the design process plays out on these towers – so: was the Architect appointed for Building Regs stage?
  27. Is the responsibility for the choice of the specific panel passed to the Contractor?
  28. Is it a performance spec?
  29. Are they Contractor redesigns?
  30. Why is Grenfell Tower not approved?
  31. Are other towers also not approved?
  32. What Designers Risk Assessment did the Architect produce?
  33. What was the scope of assessment by the Fire Service? Was it adequate and comprehensive?
  34. Did Building Inspectors check panels and know of the issues.
  35. Why did KCTMO ignore residents’ request for non flammable panels?
  36. Why have the shocking panel fire tests been ignored (historic ones freely available on YouTube)
  37. Has the flue effect of the gap behind the panels been tested?
  38. Were party wall and party floor fire breaks designed behind the panels?
  39. Were they installed?
  40. Why was a “stay put” policy adopted with flammable panels and no sprinklers?
  41. Why did the emergency services reply with “stay put”?

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  1. A good but not exhaustive list. I would add in a good number if questions about the insulation put behind the panels (type, fire risk, cost, specification, sign off etc). Plus all the works to retrofit gas (as if Ronan point never happened?) and alleged safety failure in the fire cladding, and the effect of making holes in structures on the fire containment properties inherent with the original design to limit the spread of fire. There are so many questions, and so few answers. The attempts to managed the “public mood” are becoming flash points themselves.

    1. For the record in case anyone is interested. The 80’s clip doing the rounds about Cladding being a potential fire hazard was from a 1984 documentary by Adam Curtis: “Inquiry. The Great British Housing Disaster” and is mentioned/stated at the 44:49 mins mark onwards.


  3. Is there enough fuel in the polythene core to cause the effect we saw?
    Why was the fire able to break out in multiple places?
    Why has no application been made to isolate the crime scene?
    Why have survivors and eyewitnesses been bullied out of meetings in preference for celebrities, washed up rap artists and media commentators?
    Why since the very beginning has CLADDING CLADDING CLADDING been rammed down our throats?
    Why did Government authorise tests for European standards A2 non combustible when this is n/a in U.K.
    Tests on the faces of panels show high temperatures are needed to buckle the Aluminium then melt the plastic core which catches fire and forms “fire rain” It extinguishes once external heat source is removed.
    The insulation isn’t even mentioned. It appears charred in later videos. Doesn’t appear to burn violently or really catch fire.
    The windows specified are Aluminium. Close up pictures show melted pools on Windows ledges. Aluminium melted.
    The flames were massive. Huge exploding aerial white balls of flames. On the ground pieces were bursting pyrotechnically into huge bursts of white flames. Like magnesium not like Aluminium which surely would melt.
    The very top of the building had no plastic but did have Aluminium sheets. These were seen again to burst into huge white flames. How is that possible?
    In Dubai similar panels but foam insulation. 50th floor. No internal damage. No deaths.
    In Australia Melbourne similar panels flames spread 3-4 floors vertical. Smoke damage alone.
    Why are just about all the flats, on all faces of the tower burning in the same manner? Orange purple blue flames. Little smoke. How did the external fire get in.
    Why are white goods shown I photographs standing in the middle of a charred room. All internal walls in 70’s built towers are solid concrete.
    How did fires engulf landings and lift spaces? What was burning?
    How did smoke get into the stair case? Flat door fireproof. Landing door fireproof. Stair case door fireproof. Standard for tower blocks.
    This fire caused by a plastic bag is impossible. I urge you to look and look again at as many videos as possible. The corners and decorative columns seem to spread the fire both up and down. It’s all very suspicious.
    It will be covered up unless someone stops this Fridge,Cladding( panels), inferno media driven narrative. Added to by endless reports of cheap flammable (panels)

  4. Excellent Paul! However, I have come across “death traps” in other forms, eg incompetent/fraudulent builders converting lofts, etc without informing the owner that Building Regulations are required (and sometimes Planning) which should be a criminal offence. The onus should be on the person carrying out the work and not necessarily the home owner alone. Successive Governments have failed to have a Builders’ Register, from which they may be struck off to prevent further bad practice. Why? Building Regulations is in a mess besides aspects purely relating to fire risk. Hope there is widespread consultation for change.

  5. One important issue in all of this is the implication of the Construction Design and Management Regulations or CDM for short, and see this link http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/cdm/2015/responsibilities.htm for legal reasons and role of principle designers or planning coordinator under earlier CDM regs that would still have applied but there is no mention of this and there is a clear criminal and legal liability route and audit to follow. Someone must have the project file or Health Safety File under CDM regulations

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