Tall buildings group to study high-rise fires in wake of Grenfell inferno – Construction Dive

Dive Brief:  

  • Following the deadly fire at London’s Grenfell Tower this summer, the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has formed a working group to investigate building facades’ fire performance. The multidisciplinary group will comprise representatives from around the globe.

  • The group will offer $20,000 to support research in the area and will host a related workshop at the CTBUH’s 2017 conference in Australia.

  • The grant money will go toward creating a high-rise fire database that the organization hopes will help spur new fire-prevention solutions.

Dive Insight:

In addition to the fire at Grenfell, the working group is also likely to look into the recent run of high-rise fires in Dubai.

In assessing Grenfell, the focus has been on cladding that was installed on the 24-story building roughly a year prior. The panels, manufactured by Arconic and containing the highly flammable polyethylene, reportedly helped spread the fire, which burned for more than 24 hours.

Polyethylene, which burns long and hot, was also contained in the material that caught fire in March, incinerating a portion of Atlanta’s Interstate 85 and causing a 350-foot section of the highway to collapse. The product literature published by Arconic said the panels were not meant for use in high-rise construction and even provided fire-safety warnings. Still, they were sold for use on the tower and other tall buildings in the London area.

The danger posed by the materials, in addition to the actual source of high-rise fires, have prompted questions about who is to blame in the event of a building material’s failure. Claims can be leveled against a project’s architect for specifying the wrong material. Additionally, engineers, contractors and manufacturers could also be at fault depending on whether their actions are considered to be outside of an appropriate standard of care.

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