Amid the bewildering discovery that Surrey seemingly has higher skyscrapers than London – at least based on the heights of their respective fire services’ hydraulic platforms we now discover that the EU also played a role in the disaster and one which does not show it in a good light.
In order to comply with EU carbon reduction plans housing energy efficiency has been pursued with vigour. This is the reason why most high rise blocks in the UK have been swathed in cladding – it was the only way of improving their thermal efficiency without tearing them down and starting again.
For the purposes of insulation, polyisocyanurate (PIR) used on Grenfell tower was 30% more efficient than its fireproof competitor, which if it were used, at over six inches would probably be physically too thick to attach to the outside of the tower.
So to do the right thing for energy efficiency, PIR insulation was fitted.
Meanwhile, even before Croatia joined the EU in 2013 they were party to technical talks on fire standards. And they had already flagged up that these (PIR) insulating materials were vulnerable in fire and should be required to comply with a stricter fire safety standard. The research team recommended the British Standard, BS8414 for high-rise buildings. They went on to say there was an indissoluble link between energy performance and fire performance of buildings, and that the EU-mandated fire test standards were wholly inadequate.
But Britain is part of the EU, and has no competence to authorise this standard, the EU alone has this competence (single market and all that). So Britain already had a sufficient standard but it appears, the British government seems to have ignored or at the very least failed to vigorously support the Croatian research with the EU.
So I can only agree with Richard North, on whose very comprehensive article this one is based “ when it [comes] to framing regulations, the Community law-making machine [is] not very good at it.”
And the British government is also seen to be asleep at the wheel – whether as a result of fire service cuts or a hollowed out civil service, or just incompetence, will presumably be something for the inquiry to discover.
Even China, for goodness sake, bases its approval for its high rise insulation on the British Standard BS8414.
Brexiteers may gain satisfaction that the EU had a part in the biggest UK fire disaster of our times but could they also see their way to suggest that Her Britannic Majesty’s UK government take a course in humility and learn from the system of governance in Croatia?