Closed student block’s builder ‘robustly’ defends work

Closed student block’s builder ‘robustly’ defends work

ELEMENTS CONSTRUCTION Limited, which built Kingfisher Court in Kirklees – recently vacated after over 200 fire safety issues were discovered – claimed it was ‘not to blame’ for the issues.

Last month, the block was vacated after a prohibition order was served by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS), which had 10 months ago issued an enforcement order ‘just months after’ the block was opened last year. Students were given just three hours to leave, with some provided with temporary accommodation by Huddersfield University Student Union and by Kirklees Council.

With the building set to stay closed until it can be made safe, WYFRS added that they had served the prohibition notice after receiving the results of a compartmentation survey. Most recently last week, the building was found to have 220 different fire safety flaws, despite being ‘officially signed off as safe to open’.

The ‘catalogue’ of fire safety ‘shortcomings’ were detailed in a survey undertaken since the vacation by an independent firm commissioned by the building’s administrators, with the firm undertaking a five day review of the construction. The company found incomplete walls, ‘unsuitable’ use of non fire resistant expanding foam, walls ‘not built in line with the manufacturer’s specification’ and a ‘complete absence’ of fire resistant paint on beams and columns.

Other issues included that expanding foam was used throughout to seal holes for pipes, with other pipe closer systems ‘required’, while many walls ‘were incomplete above the ceiling’ and ‘not built to a British Gypsum specification. Additionally, escape stairwells only had a single layer of plasterboard ‘when the designs suggested two layers were required’, with unsealed joints, exposed screwheads, ‘inadequate methods of sealing off’ and missing boards also identified.

Finally, polyurethane foam had been ‘inappropriately used to fill any remaining gaps’, which is the ‘wrong type of product for this part of a building’, and the report in total was 189 pages long with 220 zones ‘that need fixing if the building is ever to be safe’. The report also stated that ‘in a real fire situation, fire would be expected to readily spread throughout multiple compartments with very little resistance from inadequate fire stopping measures’.

As a result, the news outlet stated, the findings raise ‘question marks about how the fire danger flats were given the green light to open’, while the issues ‘are known to be replicated’ in the neighbouring Cormorant House and Crane Court ‘which have never opened’. It added in its most recent report that the builders of the block had constructed another building in Bradford, at which WYFRS had been ‘tipped off’ after finding compartmentation ‘faults’ earlier this year.

Elements Construction Limited has responded by stating that it ‘followed the rules at the time’ and is a ‘victim of post Grenfell rule changes’, commenting: ‘As has been stated on numerous occasions, the building was correctly signed off and was compliant with building regulations and approved documents as applicable at the time. Put simply, you cannot interrogate a building constructed in 2017 against 2019 criteria.’

Elements also added that the pink fire foam it used to seal holes was ‘widely used throughout the construction industry’ and is fire rated for five hours, providing the news outlet with technical responses to ‘all the other issues highlighted’ in the report. Examiner Live also noted that Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has vowed to ‘raise the scandal of the three student blocks in parliament’.