Robert Gehl writes it’s not a stretch to say that environmentalists were partly responsible for the death of at least 17 people (and likely many more) when a fire engulfed a high-rise building Wednesday in London.
The cause of the fire is known, but the environmental cladding – or exterior insulation – created what The Daily Caller is describing as a “chimney effect” that cause the fire to rapidly spread upwards. The Grenfell Tower was clad in the environmentally friendly exterior in 2015 as part of a $13 million retrofit.
The cladding is used to make buildings more energy sustainable and meet “green energy” regulations. There are almost 30,000 similarly clad buildings across the United Kingdom with the inexpensive cladding.
Speaking to The Telegraph, fire officials said they were shocked at how fast the inferno spread.
“I have never seen a fire that has engulfed an entire building like this in a career of more than 30 years,” Matt Wrack, who heads the Fire Brigades Union, said.
“It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns,” echoed Dr. Jim Glockling of the Fire Protection Association.
“There has been an emerging body of evidence surrounding some of the materials being used and now we have an appalling demonstration of what can happen,” Glockling said.
As a result of the retrofit, Grenfell Tower became more energy efficient, but the space between the cladding and the building increased the potential damage from fires, leaving hundreds of residents at the fire’s mercy.
“There were explosions everywhere you looked, lots of bangs, blue gas coming out everywhere you looked,” Mickey Paramasivan told The Telegraph.
“About 12 floors up I saw three children waving from a window and then there was just an explosion and they disappeared,” he said. “They were three kids, they were banging on the windows, you could see their silhouettes and then bang, it just went up.”
The dangers of “cladding” have been known for years. A blog post by the Grenfell Action Group in November 2016 warned that “only a catastrophic event” would bring attention to the building’s issue.
Government officials cautioned against the risks of cladding since at least 1999, according to The Telegraph. This is the tragic consequence of not heeding to those warnings.