Jane Duncan says an urgent public inquiry into the cause of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in west London is needed
The 24-storey building in north Kensington was engulfed in flames yesterday morning, leaving at least 17 people dead, 20 in a critical condition in hospital and many others unaccounted for.
The concrete tower, which had only one fire escape staircase, was completed in 1974 and had recently undergone an £8.6 million refurbishment overseen by Studio E Architects.
RIBA president Jane Duncan described the fire at Grenfell Tower as an ‘awful tragedy’, and said her thoughts were with the ‘victims, all those affected and the heroes who responded’.
She added: ‘Speculation about the fire’s cause or spread, prior to a thorough investigation, would be inappropriate.
’[However] fire and people safety are absolutely critical in all buildings, which is why there must be an urgent public inquiry to fully understand how this tragedy occurred.’
Yesterday’s fire came eight years after a devastating fire at Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, south London, claimed the lives of six people including three children.
Last autumn, then housing minister Gavin Barwell – who lost his seat in last week’s general election and was this week appointed as Theresa May’s new chief of staff – announced a review into Part B of the Building Regulations 2010 covering fire safety.
However, this review has still not begun. A spokesperson for the DCLG said in March that the review would be undertaken ‘in due course’.
At the time the Fire Risk Management journal reported that experts were concerned that the delay could be ’endangering tower blocks throughout the UK’.
The journal also reported that Ronnie King, honorary administrative secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Fire Safety & Rescue Group, had warned that the current building regulations ‘[hadn’t] taken account of the Lakanal House fire inquest, or updated recent accredited research’.
Last night Prime Minister Theresa May promised a ’proper investigation’ into the incident, adding that if any lessons are to be learned they will be, and ‘action will be taken’.
Alison Brooks pays tribute to Grenfell Tower victims at the AJ100 Awards
Alison Brooks, who was the keynote speaker at last night’s AJ100 Awards and won the contribution to the profession award, started her speech by acknowledging the ’tragic fire and the loss of life at the Grenfell Tower’.
‘It’s the most sobering reminder imaginable of the responsibility that we architects and all construction industry professionals bear,’ she added.
‘I hope this terrible lesson will increase the industry’s resolve to ensure that the procurement, the insulation, the testing, the certification of fire protection systems of our buildings are never ever compromised – we don’t evade responsibility.’