Architecture : What Australia Should Learn From Grenfell – Building Is Boring – Medium
Grenfell hit home in Australia, and particularly in Melbourne, because of the 2014 Lacrosse fire. Lacrosse did burn, and it was covered in metal panels, however that’s where the similarities to Grenfell end. Thankfully, no one died. Everyone got out. People live in the building to this day, and there are still metal panels adorning the facade. Why the difference?
The difference is that Lacrosse had fire safety systems that worked. Things like fire sprinklers, enough exits so people could evacuate, and fire-rated construction. Discussed but overshadowed once the panel beating started, was that Grenfell lacked these things, and this is what turned it from a Lacrosse where everyone got out, into a nightmare.
Amongst the hubbub, it was also overlooked just exactly what all the fear was related to — building fires and in particular combustible materials that make up our buildings and will potentially spontaneously combust and take everyone down with the building. Combustible means ‘able to catch fire and burn easily’. In the face of a building fire, a serious one which poses a high risk to occupants, maybe a better question is, what materials in our buildings are not combustible?
Fabrics? Synthetic materials, which make up stuff like carpet? Plastics, which are found in things like electrical wiring? Burn, baby, burn. That nice Swedish-ish furniture you’ve got? Flame on. Wood? Wood? I won’t patronise you.
‘Let’s just build everything out of steel and concrete!’, you might be saying. Well….
There’s an extraordinary hierarchy amongst the building codes of material testing and approval, fire engineering, building surveyor reviews, inspections, etc. etc. that are intended to address potential risks to construction and fire safety in general. Australia’s not perfect in this regard — the combustibility testing of the metal panels themselves has been questioned — however the systems in place are pretty robust and are part of the reason people are still barbecuing on their balconies at the Lacrosse building. Australia tries on the title of nanny state in any number of areas, with fire safety definitely being one of them: