— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) June 20, 2017
Who knew? Who’d-a-thunk eh?
You might have thought it was a no-brainer, a 23 storey tower block to be clad in insulation and rain-proof cladding…it’d have to be fire proof, surely? You wouldn’t wrap a building in flammable material would you when non-combustible materials were available, materials that not only didn’t burn but didn’t give off cyanide gas when burnt? And yet that is precisely what did happen.
What went wrong? ‘Experts’, political hubris, time and money, good intentions and lack of supervision.
The BBC et al scoffed loudly at Gove when he suggested perhaps ‘experts’ weren’t all they were cracked up to be and perhaps we shouldn’t listen to them quite so much, maybe with a touch of scepticism. Indeed the Brexit vote was a vote by the People flying in the face of ‘expert’ advice telling them how great the EU was. The problem was that the peoples’ own experience on the ground, living with the consequences of EU membership, was entirely different to what they were being told they should appreciate….they were told what they saw as EU failure was their own fault, they didn’t understand, they were ignorant or they were prejudiced and bigoted.
Trouble is they were not stupid or bigoted, they knew full well what was going on and that they were being lied to. The same goes for tower blocks like Grenfell Tower…the residents, not experts in architecture, building design or in building materials, could tell from living the reality that the place was a death trap. But the experts knew better.
The trouble is the politicians, local and national, all have to rely on the experts…for the design, for construction and for overseeing any project. And of course they will rely on them and their advice. What else can they do? Then there is the politics. Housing in desperately short supply and politicians make promises to build, build, build and then they get elected and have to make good on those promises…luckily new building techniques and materials are available that will speed up and lower the cost of mass producing news homes. It then falls to the local councils to carry out those promises, find the money and to supervise the jobs. It just doesn’t happen as good intentions fall by the wayside and the pressure is on to get the new homes built to a budget…and the new techniques aren’t properly researched and developed so that ultimately the buildings fail in some shape or form. The buildings are either demolished or attempts made to repair them…repairs which suffer the same problems of insufficient development and supervision. These also fail as at Grenfell.
None of this is new. New techniques and building materials have been around for over a century as prefabs using concrete became the common solution to rapidly building mass housing. The politicians naturally having to rely on experts to assure them this was the best solution, and safe.
Here are some phrases that sum up the time from a 1984 investigation…. ‘Get it built’, ‘the mood of the times’, ‘time and money’, ‘euphoric times’, ‘people swept along’.
The politicians et al were swept along on a tide of hubris…an Obama-like ‘Yes we can’ mood that meant the details and the criticisms were swept aside and ignored in the ‘euphoria’ of getting the job done.
Watch the film, below. It’s frightening how good intentions result in costly and dangerous end results, the politicians not deliberately setting out to build shoddy and lethal housing but a perfect storm of time and budget pressures, contractors failing to provide quality materials and good work standards and a failure of supervision by the councils all combined to produce homes that were deadly.
The while film illustrates the process by which failure was built into the system but the last 5 minutes brings it all into clear focus and relevance to today as it gets to the cladding repair systems and then the failure of politicians to listen to the people, preferring as they did, to listen to the experts.
This was in 1984….33 years ago…lessons learnt? None.