Student flats found to have 220 fire safety flaws
KINGFISHER COURT in Kirklees, which was recently emptied of students amid fire safety concerns, has now been found to have 220 different fire safety flaws.
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 on the same building. This had taken place ‘just months after’ the block was opened last year, with that first notice having required the responsible person for the block to ‘take fire precautions to ensure employees’ safety’, and to take such precautions for relevant persons – the students – ‘as may reasonably be required in the circumstances’ to ensure their safety.
Students were given just three hours to leave, with some provided with temporary accommodation by Huddersfield University Student Union and by Kirklees Council. The company which built the block, Mederco, collapsed this year owing £152m in unpaid loans, and 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.
A WYFRS spokesperson pointed out that the notice referred only to compartmentation, and not cladding. Shabir Pandor, council leader, stated that the council does not own the building and did not sign it off for occupation as ‘building control was carried out by a private contractor’. Now, Examiner Live has reported that the building has 220 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 of students was undertaken 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’.
Building administrators Mederco Huddersfield Ltd reiterated that the building was ‘properly constructed, properly signed off and compliant with all building regs in place at the time of handover’, with problems in the report ‘found on every floor of the building’ and ‘mostly in relation to construction above the ceilings and within the lobbies and lift shafts.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government commented: ‘The independent Hackitt review (into the Grenfell Tower tragedy) found that the regulatory system for high-rise residential system is not fit for purpose and recommended ways to strengthen it. The Government agrees and has accepted all the review’s recommendations.
‘As part of this, we have said that we will remove the ability of developers of high-rise buildings to choose which building control body oversees their project, and will establish a building safety regulator with stronger enforcement powers and sanctions to deter those who seek to flout the rules. We are consulting on detailed proposals to do this and have committed to bring forward legislation to implement a more effective system as early as practicable.’