We’ve been investigating whether the variety of cladding used on the Grenfell Tower block is used anywhere on campus.
The fire which broke out in Grenfell Tower, a council housing block in Kensington on the 13th June was a tragedy whose true scale may not be known for some time. What we do know is that dozens of people lost their lives, that hundreds more have seen their homes destroyed, and that serious questions are being asked about the causes of the fire and the authorities’ responses to it.
Questions began to emerge in the immediate aftermath of the blaze about the variety of cladding used in the restoration of the tower block, with eyewitnesses testifying that its combustibility allowed flames to engulf the building at a terrifying pace. The type of cladding has since been identified as Reynobond PE: a model which has been withdrawn from sale in the aftermath of the events in London and which is comprised of a polyethylene core, sandwiched between aluminium sheets.
Over the following weeks, cladding from buildings up and down the country has been examined to check whether it is of the same variety. Cladding from housing in other London Boroughs including Camden has failed fire safety tests, as has material from more far-flung locations including Manchester and Plymouth. This Wednesday, concerns were raised that student accommodation in various cities may also have been affected. Investigations over the next couple of days revealed that the same variety of cladding had been found in locations at universities including Newcastle and Nottingham Trent.
So, are any sites in Loughborough affected? We asked the University, who told us that after a review of its residential buildings and accommodation owned by third parties which it has agreements with, they’d found that “there is no material similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower in use.”
In addition, a precautionary review has also been arranged, which will look at “all campus buildings which have any form of cladding or insulation” with the goal of ascertaining “the exact nature and specification of the materials involved so that we can react quickly to any developments.” You may be relieved to hear that the University “do not believe at this stage that there are any major issues.”
Richard Taylor, The University’s Chief Operating Officer, told us: “The safety of our students, staff and campus visitors is paramount. Our buildings have been designed with safety in mind and we employ a dedicated Fire Officer who constantly monitors our approach to fire safety. Across campus there are strict safety procedures in place that meet, and in some cases exceed, the Statutory requirements.”
Byron House, one of the locations in Nottingham Trent where concerns about cladding are now being addressed, is run in partnership with a group called UPP. Other properties in the UPP portfolio include our own Village Park development (which includes Elvyn, Bakewell and Rigg Rut). UPP were able to confirm that, following an investigation into these buildings, “no cladding with Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) is in use.”
Furthermore, UPP emphasised that the safety of students, staff and visitors to campus is a serious issue for both themselves and the University and that fire safety is an issue that they take very seriously. In a statement, they told Label that “All UPP accommodation is subject to regular fire risk assessments and is attended by staff trained in fire safety procedures 24 hours a day. The accommodation also benefits from a high standard of detection, weekly alarm testing and managed fire drills to ensure all residents know how and where to evacuate the building.”
This will come as a relief to many students who live in halls on campus, but what about those who live off campus? Unite Students, who run the Holt and Waterways Halls, were able to confirm in a statement on their website that they “do not have any properties with the same brand of external cladding as the material used on the Grenfell tower”.