Building and Construction

Fires Prompt a Second Look at Tall Building Design

07 September 2017

London's Grenfell Tower fire in May 2017.London's Grenfell Tower fire in May 2017.

In the wake of the Grenfell fire in London and other high-profile fires around the world, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has launched three initiatives: the creation of a new working group to look at the link between fire and façades; $20,000 of research funding to further investigate this field; and a fire performance workshop at the CTBUH 2017 Australia Conference.

The council says that following a number of recent tall building fires that appear to have spread up the outside of the façade, "this is a time when the building industry needs clarity and leadership."

The aim of this working group is to create an international perspective on the issues and provide recommendations and guidelines for the next generation of tall buildings. The council says that it appears the cause of many of these fires might have been inadequate fireproofing to the cladding, compounded by other issues in each case.

The Grenfell Tower in London is one of many fires that have breached perhaps the longest-standing fundamental fire safety object of tall buildings, which is "compartmentalization": that is, to resist the spread of fire between floors. The working group says it will seek to deconstruct what “fire safety” means, take it back to the key concepts that are independent of code or country and ask whether we understand each of those concepts and how they should be addressed.

The working group plans to incorporate the work of investigations in China, Australia, the UK and the Middle East, with the objective of creating an international perspective on the issues, and to generate recommendations and guidelines that could work internationally, while local guidance is also accommodated.

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Discussion – 1 comment

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Re: Fires Prompt a Second Look at Tall Building Design
2017-Sep-21 6:36 AM

As of yet we still haven't been told how the fire started, my theory based on the population of the tower which were mainly immigrants is that someone was having a barbeque on the balcony of one of the flats, the initial report that said it was started by a domestic fridge exploding doesn't really hold up as it would have to have been on the balcony in all weathers & from what I've seen when an appliance explodes it rarely catches fire, another contributing factor was that a lot of the front doors were jammed open so there was no safe passage out. I cannot think that the cost of fitting sprinklers to the common parts would be prohibitive & should be installed in all buildings of multiple occupation ASAP.


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