Fire-safety expert Arnold Tarling has been in high demand – and taken to the nation’s hearts – since his TV interview in which he broke down as he described warning authorities about the risk of high-rise fires and of being woken at 4am with news of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire.
Tarling spoke exclusively to the SKWAWKBOX a few days after the fire and described the UK’s fire-safety testing regime as a ‘sham’ – and today he spoke again to this blog to expose the government’s ‘100 a day’ testing of cladding from high-rise buildings around the country as also a sham – of a very different kind:
The government is using completely the wrong type of test on the cladding material. It’s the type of test you use to find out how many calories are in an item of food! It has no relevance whatever to the kind of setting the panels will be used in and almost any material will fail it.
It’s called a ‘bomb calorimeter‘ test – you grind up a sample of the material, which will increase flammability anyway, then put it into a pressure vessel, add water and then force oxygen into the vessel until you increase the pressure to thirty atmospheres, that’s four times the pressure a human being can survive.
In that environment, things that won’t normally burn become flammable – it’s basically the perfect environment for something to burn. But it’s quick to set up and carry out and you can do it on a table top.
To test properly with the standard BR135 test takes a a week or more like two to set up per test. You build a test-construction with the panels in situ and burn them from bottom to top.
To test cladding from 600 buildings would take twelve years. Even if you build compartmentalised test set-ups so you can test multiple samples at once and do the same at more than one location, you’re talking a year or more’s work. The government’s ‘100 a day’ is not feasible.
The video below shows how bomb calorimetry is carried out. It doesn’t take much to see how completely unsuitable it is:
Even using a faster but incorrect test, the government has not achieved anything like 100 tests a day. But it’s now clear that, in their eagerness to be seen to do something, anything to avert public anger, the Tories have lurched from one extreme to the other.
From doing nothing to doing the wrong thing, creating what might be a huge number of ‘false positives’ – and the risk of spending vast sums of money on unnecessary evacuations and refits, not to mention distress and discomfort.
This incompetence risks burdening councils with costs they can ill afford in an environment of 40% cuts to local government funding, in order to solve problems where they don’t exist.
Again the country is suffering the consequences of Tory weakness, chaos and incompetence – and those buildings genuinely at risk might be missed or lead to catastrophe while the government wastes time and money on phantoms caused by applying a completely inappropriate test.
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