Arup fire engineer Dr. Barbara Lane told the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that inadequate building regulations and the lack of a “Plan B” were largely to blame for the magnitude of the Grenfell Tower Fire.
According to Lane, compartmentation was the only strategy listed in the design, construction and building regulations for the tower.
The aim of compartmentation is to inhibit rapid fire spread throughout a building by reducing the fuel available in the initial stages of a fire, thus keeping it contained to one area. This can be achieved by using fireproof walls, floors and doors to restrict the fire.
This was the only strategy employed in Grenfell Tower, says Lane, and when this strategy failed there was no back-up plan. This was made worse by the building’s ‘stay put’ strategy, which required residents to stay in the building while firefighters attended to (what should have been) a fire in one individual unit.
According to Lane, the tower’s design did not allow firefighters to tackle an external fire, and the building was not fitted with a whole-building alarm system that would tell all residents to evacuate.
“[Compartmentation] is the single safety condition provided for in the design of high-rise residential buildings in England,” says Lane.
“The statutory guidance makes no provision within the building for anything other than a stay put strategy.”
The situation was also made worse by ongoing gas pipe replacement works that had left a pipe running through multiple floors with “incomplete compartmentation works and incomplete ventilation works on the night of the fire,” says Lane.