Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June, housing safety has been a huge concern for both politicians and the general public. The images from Kensington shocked the world, but the huge scale of the problem was revealed by the sheer number of blocks with similar concerns when the government carried out fire safety checks on cladding samples submitted from other tower blocks across England.
After the collapse of the 22-storey Ronan Point block in 1968 due to a gas explosion, new building regulations were brought in to make construction safer in tower blocks. But in August, four blocks in the Ledbury estate in Peckham, south London, were evacuated after Southwark council admitted it could not be sure the buildings – which were built at the same time as Ronan Point – had, in fact, been strengthened.
Architect Douglas Murphy says outsourcing and complex supply chains make safety difficult to delegate. “In just a couple of generations the construction industry has become far more complex, with a far greater number of different components inside our buildings, all made by different contractors and suppliers,” he says.
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