The Anonymous Widower

The Debate Over Burning Dead Trees To Create Biomass Energy

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Wired.

This is the sub-title.

Critics worry about the risks of overcutting and wood smoke. But supporters say the practice will prevent megafires—which release even more carbon dioxide.

For those who worry about the ethics of biomass, it is a must-read.

June 28, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Design Crime – The Average Smoke Detector

On Saturday Evening, the smoke detector in my bedroom decided to go off.

I was able to silence it about three times, but it refused to go off permanently.

I then decided to take it down, by standing on the bed.

Unfortunately, I slipped and broke the detector.

It is not the first altercation, I have had with the cheap and nasty smoke detectors in this house, which were probably bought in Istanbul market for a few pence.

  • In my view, there is a need for a superior type of smoke detector wired into a building in a better way.
  • It should be possible to replace a failed detector, like I had on Saturday in a simple operation without any tools.
  • There should also be a master switch in the house, that switches off all the smoke detectors.
  • Instructions on how to deal with the smoke detectors in case of failure should be in an obvious place in the house, like on the door of the meter cupboard.

Smoke detectors are too important, to be designed down to the cheapest possible station and most are a true design crime.

March 31, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Total Loss’ Feared After Fire Reportedly Damages Eviation Alice Electric Plane Prototype

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Engineering News page of IMechE.

It’s not what you call a flying start!

Even-Boeing had problems with the batteries on the Dreamliner.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Grenfell Tower Fire: ‘Systemic Failures’ In Fire Brigade’s Response

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report into the 2017 blaze.

I am particularly worried about the stay-put policy.

In the 1950s, I was a member of the Scouts and several times we did exercises with them, where we were taught how to get out of blazing buildings. We were also used as dummy causalities in major incident training.

Certainly, the advice then for a fire was to get out.

Around 1970, I worked on chemical plants for ICI and fire safety was taken very seriously.

I remember being told to know your escape route from where you were working. And get out fast, if anything happened. Not that it did!

One other thing I remember is on the Wilton site, seeing office windows with “Perspex Window – Fine Hazard” stencilled on them.  The resaon for this, was that a nearby polythene plant very occasionally caused spectacular arial explosions and glass windows were just too dangerous, as when shattered, they covered those inside with shatds of glass. If you read the story of the Summerland Disaster in August 1973, which killed fifty people.

Wikipedia says this about the building.

The street frontage and part of the roof was clad in Oroglas, a transparent acrylic glass sheeting.

Oroglas is a poly(methyl methacrylate) and is another tradename for the same plastic, which ICI called Perspex.

I’d left ICI, by the time of the Summerland Disaster, but I was still in contact with friends, who worked in Plastics Division, who were responsible for Perspex. One was very critical of the use of Oroglas in the building.

I should also say, that I have lived in a tower block with my family.

From my knowledge, I would not have lived in a building with flammable cladding.

Cromwell Tower in the Barbican is clad in concrete, with a network of tunnels going a couple of floors down from each flat on the thirty-five floors.

After the Grenfell Tower fire, I felt that architects and lawmakers have completely ignored the lessons of history!

Conclusion

There is a need to make sure that we take on board all the lessons of Grenfell, so that the chance of another disaster are minimised.

 

 

 

October 29, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Barratt To Pay For Fire Safety Cladding Upgrade On Croydon Block

The title of this post is the same of that on this article on ITV.com.

This is the first couple of paragrphs.

Developers of a high-rise block that failed fire safety tests will pay for safety measures estimated to run into the millions of pounds, including replacing its Grenfell-style cladding, the Government has said.

Barratt Developments has said it will pay for backdated and future fire safety costs to make the Citiscape housing complex in Croydon, south London, safe, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.

The ITV article has a video report.

I feel that they are in a difficult place, as their architects probably thought the cladding was safe to use. So I don’t think there has been too much malfeasance on the part of Barratt.

But to hold up their hand and say we’ll fix it, probably means everyone will be a winner.

  • Barratt get to fix the block for the cost of two or three of their more expensive houses.
  • If Barratt get an agreement on the deal, they should avoid complex and expensive legal wrangles.
  • Replacing the cladding now, will probably be a lot easier on a new building, that was probably built to a high standard in the last couple of years.
  • The Government should be pleased as there appears that the hand of Sajid Javid has applied some pressure.
  • Croydon Council should be pleased, as it is unlikely many owners will need to be moved to emeergency accommodation.
  • Hopefully, the owners will be pleased, as it appears they should get the value of their properties back.

The ITV article quotes a Barratt’s spokesman as saying.

Following the recent ruling that the costs for necessary recladding at Citiscape will fall on the individual apartment owners, many of whom were originally Barratt customers when it was built in 2002, we have decided that we will pay for the work. “Citiscape was built in line with all building regulations in place at the time of construction. While we don’t own the building or have any liability for the cladding, we are committed to putting our customers first. “The important thing now is ensuring that owners and residents have peace of mind.

I suppose Barratt could be accused of spinning a good line, but it is all good publicity for the houses they are building.

Whether other developers, who used the same cladding, as that involved in the tragedy of Grenfell, will follow Barratt’s example is another manner!

 

 

April 20, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

What Is It With All These Fires?

Grenfell, California, Manchester, New York, Mumbai, Portugal in the Summer and now, Liverpool!

Luckily, last night’s fire  didn’t see any sentient casualties!

It’s almost, as if we’re losing our fear of fire and precautions that previous generations took in the design of buildings, vehicles and life are being side-lined.

January 1, 2018 Posted by | News, World | | 2 Comments

Grenfell Tower Gas Pipes Left Exposed, Despite Fire Safety Expert’s Orders

The title of this post is that of an article in the Guardian.

Read the article and you’ll see the standard of the work done on the gas system in the tower by National Grid.

This is a paragraph.

In March, three months before the blaze, residents told the London fire brigade (LFB) that people living in the 24-storey tower were so scared by the pipes “that they are having a panic attack”.

There is a lot more like that.

Interestingly, Cadent Gas; the division of National Grid that did the work was spun off and is now owned partly by the Qatari government.

Agas system, when it is installed by nincompoops is a disaster waiting to happen.

Workmanship of the quality shown in the pictiures would have been rejected by the inspectors on the chemical plants, I worked on in the 1960s, so why when the consultant rejected the installation, was action not taken by Cadent?

The gas may not have caused the Grenfell House fire, but I wonder if the unprotected gas pipe fractured in the heat of the fire and then just added to the inferno.

 

July 6, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

An Interesting Insight Into The Grenfell House Fire

This article on Construction News is a must read.

It describes the experiences of a Morgan Sindall employee, who lived in the tower and was in bed, when the fire started.

He works on Crossrail, so he is obviously fully-trained  and actually states that training said to stay put.

He didn’t and got out safely although in very little clothing.

It does appear that the treatment of their employee by Morgan Sindall is exemplary, so it looks to me that as this story gets more well-known, they won’t be short of applicants for permanent positions in the future.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Gas Should Be Banned In All Buildings With Multiple Occupation

I am now remembering more and more of the conversations I had in the 1960s, with fellow engineers, whilst I was working at ICI Plastics Division at Welwyn Garden City.

I arrived just after the explosion in Polythene Plant No 6 at Wilton had killed two plant operators. That and the dark shadow  of the Flixborough disaster changed the way the company looked at process design. My role was to do the dynamic calculations to make sure that the mathematics of the plant were safe and correct. In the design of one new plant, we looked at all possible combinations of vessels to make sure we were designing the best plant.

If this work led me to any personal conclusions, it was how dangerous gases like hydrogen and methane can be. I remember that it was found by investigators that the Six Plant explosion was caused by perhaps a couple of kilograms of ethylene gas that ignited and did a large amount of damage.

The Section I worked in, had actually installed an IBM 1800 process control computer on this plant and I heard rumours it went up in the air and when it came down, it continued to work.

Since then, I have only lived in one flat that relied on gas for cooking and that was a flat that was converted when we lived there from town gas to natural gas.

We nearly had a serious fire there, when one of the children got the matches from the gas stove and set fire to a duvet. Luckily, I smelt burning and put out the fire.

Our first real place to live was in Cromwell Tower in the Barbican. This is my thoughts as I expressed them in an e-mail to the BBC. They intended to put me on air, but the previous more important interview overran.

My late wife and myself brought our three children up in a high-rise 1960s block in the Barbican.

For safety there were escape passages everywhere, as I suspect there were in Grenfell Tower.

These passages would be ideal places for gas to seep and propagate the fire.

In my view, no tower block is safe with a gas supply, as a leak compromises safety.

According to The Times, the new gas supply was an unprotected  steel pipe up the stairwell installed by National Grid! Talking to an engineer with lots of experience of pipework on oil rigs, could it just have buckled and fractured in the heat? If so, that is criminal!

Sprinklers wouldn’t have contained the resulting gas fire and the intense heat got the cladding to burn.

Note that. I joined ICI in the 1960s and worked on process design, just after a series of serious gas-related explosions in UK chemical plants. All those stories about Flixborough and other disasters told over pints of beer have come back to me.

I’ve never trusted gas in a house, and my next dwelling will probably be an all-electric flat.

Gas should never be allowed in any multiple-occupation dwelling.

This will never be made law, as so many people swear by their gas cookers and the Big Six Gas companies would lobby against it.

 

June 16, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 5 Comments

Thoughts On The Tragedy At Grenfell Tower

As a family, C, myself and our three boys used to live in a tower block. Admittedly, Cromwell Tower was an upmarket tower in the Barbican. I wrote about the tower in Cromwell Tower.

Cromwell Tower was designed around a concrete core in a brutalist style in the 1960s, just like Grenfell Tower.

Cromwell Tower had a network of passages that allowed escape to the floors underneath. I suspect that Grenfell Tower had similar passages.

But there were differences.

  • Cromwell Tower had a higher standard of interior finish.
  • Every flat in Cromwell Tower has a wide airy balcony.
  • Cromwell Tower has no gas.
  • Cromwell Tower was designed for high net worth tenants, whereas Grenfell Tower was a Council block.

As both blocks were designed around the same time, I suspect that they were designed to the same set of regulations.

So why did Grenfell Tower catch fire?

These are possible reasons.

Gas

I don’t like gas, as one thing I remember from working at ICI in the 1960s, is that how powerful a gas explosion can be.

Naked gas flames also are a major cause of asthma, as they create oxides of nitrogen.

But if wee had had gas in Cromwell Tower and there had been a leak, the escape passages would have been an ideal way for the gas to spread through the tower.

For these and other reasons, I believe strongly, that all multiple occupancy housing should not be connected to a gas supply.

I’ve also heard that view from a Chief Fire Officer in Suffolk.

The Design And Execution Of The Upgrade

Was it done to high enough standards.

The Cladding

\Suspicion is falling on the cladding of the building.

Smoking

How friendly was the building to smokers?

Have we really learned the lessons of the past?

The Summerland Disaster

In 1971, over fifty people were killed in a fire on the Isle of Man in the Summerland Disaster. This is Wikipedia’s summary.

The Summerland disaster occurred when a fire spread through the Summerland leisure centre in Douglas on the Isle of Man on the night of 2 August 1973. Between fifty and fifty-three people were killed and eighty seriously injured

I know it wasn’t a tower block, but I think that there are common issues.

Under Background this is said.

Summerland was opened on 25 May 1971. It was a climate-controlled building covering 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) on Douglas’s waterfront, consisting of 50,000 sq ft (4,600 m2) of floor area at a cost of £2 million. The building’s hull and the interior were designed by two different architects—they did not match their planning to each other and thereby created a venue with significant fire risks that were only to become apparent later.

So did the architects of the upgrade do a proper job? Did they have any co-operation with the original architects.

The same Background section also says this.

Summerland was designed to accommodate up to 10,000 tourists and comprised a dance area, five floors of holiday games, restaurants and public bars. It was a 1960s concrete design incorporating advanced controlled internal climate, built with novel construction techniques using new plastic materials. The street frontage and part of the roof was clad in Oroglas, a transparent acrylic glass sheeting.

Note the use of Oroglas cladding, which is still made today.

At the time of the Summerland disaster, I was working at ICI Plastics, who made a similar acrylic sheet called Perspex. As I look around my kitchen, I see various applications of this or similar plastics.

In several places in one ICI chemical works, Perspex windows were used, as there was the occasional small explosion and you didn’t want to shower people in glass fragments.  But they were clearly marked Perspex Window – Fire Hazard.

So the problems of acrylic were clearly known at the time and yet, acrylic sheet was used to clad the building. One ICI Perspex expert told me, that Perspex shouldn’t be used to clad buildings.

So was the cladding itself a fire risk at Grenfell Tower because an inappropriate material was used, just as at Summerland?

Under Fire, this is said.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. on 2 August 1973, and was caused by three boys who were smoking in a small, disused kiosk adjacent to the centre’s miniature golf course.

So was smoking, one of the causes of the fire, just as it was in the Summerland disaster?

We don’t seem to have learned much from the Summerland disaster.

Conclusion

I’m led back to gas being the cause of the original fire, as there is nothing energetic enough to cause such a fierce fire.

It is also stated in various media articles, that there were problems with the gas.

 

 

 

 

June 15, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments