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Seminar Greenfell Tower

Fire drew a large audience

This year’s lectures at Nordbygg drew a big crowd and covered a wide range of subjects, from solar panels and indoor climate to the fire in Grenfell Tower in London. The fire was presented as a warning of just what could happen if everything goes wrong.

On the night of June 14, 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-story Grenfell Tower in London. Seventy-one people lost their lives. What happened and why?

There was strong interest in this lecture; not only was there not an empty chair to be found, but many people were standing in the back.

“The investigation into the fire is the largest investigation ever conducted by Scotland Yard. The full report contains hair-raising details. It feels like everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” says Anneli Kouthoofd, CEO of Byggmaterialindustrierna, an umbrella organization for the building materials industry, and moderator at the lecture.

The fire safety organization Brandskyddsföreningen opened the lecture by going through the course of events on the fateful day.

“Then there was a short break before the panel debate. We were worried that people might leave at the break, but it was completely quiet and expectant, and everyone stayed.”

The experienced members of the panel then discussed how we can protect both the building and individuals in a sustainable manner. How we can introduce the contact between the builders and the material manufacturers at an earlier stage, how we handle the responsibility of following up that the stipulated material is properly used and installed.

“The important message was that we must be better at working together to promote fire safety and knowledge about materials from a fire safety perspective, and we must have a better control system in Sweden. At Nordbygg, we reach several target groups, from material manufacturers, builders, consultants and architects to politicians. Everyone who works within urban development is important for making sure that what happened at Grenfell Tower never happens again.”

For example, you should not substitute one material for another without knowing what you are doing. According to the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning’s building regulations, you can use a certain material or a similar material. But, as the responsible party, you must make sure that the similar material works as well as the original material together with the other materials. An improper substitute was one of the things that went wrong in Grenfell Tower.

“I would like to conclude with a call from the building materials industry:  Use the right material in the right place and promote a robust control system. We will continue with fire safety lectures in the fall and work together with the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, the industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the building regulations are better at protecting both the building and people,” says Anneli Kouthoofd.