Envirograf – helping to keep costs down and fire safety up for local authorities in London.

Envirograf - helping to keep costs down and fire safety up for local authorities in London.

On 3 July 2009, one of the most terrible fires seen in recent years broke out in one of the flats of Lakanal House in London, killing 6 people including a three week-old baby, a six-year old, a seven-year old child. At least 20 people were reported to have been taken to hospital.

Lakanal House awas built in 1959 and is typical of the ‘high rise’ period. This twelve storey tower block contains a total of 98 flats and forms part of the Sceaux Gardens Estate, Camberwell. The design of each flat is made up of two bedroom maisonette apartments, of a distinctive ‘scissor’ design. Each flat entrance is located from the right or left side of a central access corridor.

Although the fire exit provisions were included in the original design, an investigation by The London Fire Brigade revealed that Lakanal House had been identified as being at risk of enabling a fire to spread if one should occur in any one of the flats.

Shortly after the fire the chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: ‘In blocks such as this one you should be safe for an hour before fire jumps from floor to floor. That wasn’t the case in these circumstances and I think we need to know why the fire spread so quickly.’

A number of architects raised particular questions about the materials used in the 1959 building, including modern plastic window frames and facades.

The Government commissioned an immediate investigation that was published, only 21 days after the fire itself. The report established the key factors that contributed to this tragedy and outlined the main issues to be addressed. However, despite the immediacy of the initial report, it was apparent that further research was required to establish why and how the fire spread in the manner in which it did.

Although the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) agreed with the initial areas of consideration identified in the report, none of these were new in themselves. The fire safety of any premises depends on a range of interdependent factors, from the design of the building, the materials used, the quality of the workmanship, the maintenance of the structure and the training given to the residents. As the report suggests, third party accreditation, the use of passive and active fire suppression measures and better education and understanding of individual responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order would all play a role in ensuring high fire safety standards.

With this in mind Southwark Council contacted Envirograf to consult and supply the appropriate passive fire systems to upgrade the whole estate, ensuring effective fire stopping if unfortunately another fire was to occur.

An Envirograf Technical Fire Consultant was contacted by Southwark Council (environment and Housing Asset Management) and invited to a site meeting at Lakanal House; also attending were representatives from the London Fire Brigade and the main contractor, Morrison.

After an initial investigation of the Lakanal House site it was clearly visible that the fire had found every possible void, allowing it to spread. Envirograf also inspected Marie Curie, the sister block and were asked to advise on how the block could be made fire safe, to insure this type of fire spread would never happened again.

Having completing the inspection a full report was submitted stating the recommendations required to make these buildings fire safe. Southwark Council and Morrison Construction then commissioned Envirograf to fully implement the recommendations and asked for installation works to commence as soon as possible.

All installation works were carried out by NAPFIS trained installers.

For more information please contact Envirograf on (0044) 01304 842555 or visit www.envirograf.com