Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Grenfell: The wait goes on

David Price

After almost 100 days of sitting, phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has wrapped up.

Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick now retires to write his report that will focus on the events of 14 June 2017, providing what is hoped will be a clear account of how the fire started, how it spread and how the response unfolded that night.

Exactly when we will get this report is unknown, which is unsurprising considering the scale of the inquiry.

There are almost 600 core participants – a mix of individuals, government, institutions and commercial bodies. Phase one saw more than 1,000 witness statements submitted.

Lessons from all this for the construction industry are limited at this stage. Claim and counter-claim over the compliance of window details, insulation and cladding fly back and forth.

Whether the materials used were dangerous and contributed to the fire’s spread, on their own or in unison, and whether there were faults in their installation: these are the aspects that will be investigated fully in phase two, when the decisions about the building in the months and years before the fire are analysed.

One point that all parties agree on is that a building like Grenfell Tower should not burn so catastrophically following what started as a small fire in one flat.

As fire commander Richard Welch said to survivors and relatives of those who died in the fire: “We did not let you down. The building let us all down.”

Phase two will reveal the ins and outs of construction and, as Sir Martin put it, “focus our attention on the critical circumstances and decisions which enabled such a devastating event to occur”.

Clients, designers, consultants, contractors, subcontractors and building control will all have the spotlight turned on them.

Everyone working in the industry wants to hear answers as soon as possible to make sure such a tragedy is never repeated.

However, Sir Martin made clear today that we face a considerable wait for this.

More than 200,000 documents are expected to be disclosed to core participants as part of phase two – 10 times the number analysed in phase one.

Some of those documents are already being sent out and the dissemination is expected to last until August.

Because the inquiry aims to complete a significant amount of analysis and consideration before phase two hearings begin, we won’t see QCs putting forward their cases until early 2020 at the earliest.

Projects cannot be delayed while we wait for this though, so changes have had to be implemented now.

We hear that cladding specifications and fire suppression designs are receiving more intense scrutiny than ever before, with some in the industry alleging that systems are being overdesigned and overspecified, pushing up costs with no additional safety benefit.

In the face of ongoing uncertainty about what exactly led to the Grenfell Tower fire, the only option for those working on projects today is to prepare and design for the worst, and build to the best possible standards.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.