Grenfell Tower – Where did it go wrong, and what can we do about it?

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Construction is a complex business and there are a million and one things that could go wrong.  Thankfully, for most projects, these things don’t happen – because of the skills and experience of everyone on the team.  However, with the best will in the world, mistakes will be made, accidents will happen and specifications will be changed.  


As an industry, Construction has done a huge amount over the last 40 years to greatly improve the safety record on construction sites with the number of deaths.  In 1974, when data started being collected, there were 651 fatalities reported, in 2016/17 that number had dropped to 24 (which is still 24 too many).  


The other side of this is the impact that the method of construction or choice of materials can have after we’ve packed up and gone home.  The recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower is a very sad reminder of this.  There is a whole investigation to be gone through to establish exactly what went wrong – whether the cladding should ever have been used, fire suppression and alarm methods, understanding fire risk and spread, impact of maintenance and renovation on fire protection.  I’m sure that there will be more than one factor identified – but what is critical then is to SHARE this information.  


Tragedies such as Grenfell Tower can often turn into a witch hunt to find someone to blame – which is completely understandable – but isn’t necessarily productive.  The best way to guard against a repeat is to be brutally honest about how the events came about and to then see what safeguards can be put in place to prevent a reoccurrence.  This means looking at the whole process – from initial specification for the renovation, to selection of contractors and materials, financial planning and control, checks and safety impacts.  


Buildupp is creating a network of industry professionals across all disciplines and trades.  This makes it a great source of information and knowledge that can be shared.  Whilst many, if not all, organisations want to keep the ‘bad news’ to themselves, being open and sharing can benefit us all.  We can use our individual experiences and knowledge of building practices, materials and risks, to support each other in providing the best solution – taking into account the type of building, the work and, obviously, the costs.


If we all contribute our ‘lessons learned’ to an industry network, just think about how many other people could benefit and, most importantly, not repeat those mistakes, whether they led to a poor delivery or harmed people.


Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and some of our reaction has to be taking a long, hard look at what has happened and realise that honesty and openness can only benefit our own organisations, and that of our clients and the public.


If you would like to discover more and you’re not already on our mailing list, join today for insights and development on how Buildupp wants to change the construction industry.  How does your organisation manage lessons learned?  Should we, as in industry, be doing more to share our bad experiences along with the good?  Join the conversation at Buildupp.