Grenfell Tower Architect Admits Lack of Knowledge on Safety Regulations

The Grenfell Tower Architect Firm, Studio E have apologised this week, stating they are “really sorry” for the victims and families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire which occurred in June 2017 and killed 72 people. Studio E were responsible for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment alongside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council.

The independent inquiry into the circumstances leading up to disaster is currently ongoing and is now in its second phase. The inquiry has ruled that the building safety regulations regarding combustible cladding had been breached.

On the second day of phase 2 of the Grenfell Tower inquiry, the lead architect from Studio E Architects, Bruce Sounes, was examined and questioned about the extent of his knowledge regarding building safety regulations and the guidance which goes alongside them. Mr Sounes was responsible for the day-to day running of the refurbishment project, including, choosing of the cladding system.

He acknowledged that fire safety was “fundamental to the work of an architect’s practice”, however, he was unable to justify the firm’s choice of the new cladding system, in terms of meeting the government’s guidelines for tall building’s fire safety.

Although the building firm had made a promise to “ensure that all designs comply with the relevant statutory requirements,” Mr Sounse admitted he had not familiarised himself with specific building safety guidelines and stated that he “didn’t recall hearing of” guidance which stated that materials used on buildings above 18m in height were required to be of “limited combustibility.”

He also admitted that he had no knowledge of rapid fire spread or features which could be put in place to stop fire spreading.

Kate Grange, the inquiry barrister questioned him on his knowledge on the regulations stating;

“You didn’t apply your mind at the time of the Grenfell project to how this clause applied to the materials that you were selecting?”

Mr Sounse responded by stating, “As I wasn’t myself preparing the documents – I did not, no.”

In the inquiry, he was also questioned on why he not checked if the chosen materials complied with the regulations, he stated:

“We asked for advice, but it wasn’t for us to… satisfy ourselves because I don’t think that was within our ability.”

During the inquiry, it was heard that the architect form chosen had never worked on tall buildings and that they tried to keep costs for the project below a limit of £174,000.

Studio E have attempted to justify their lack of knowledge into the building safety regulations by arguing that it was the responsibility of the Council’s building control to ensure the building met the regulations required.

How Can Bishop Lloyd and Jackson Help?

Bishop Lloyd and Jackson specialise in fire safety law and can provide assistance to those living in unsafe accommodation. If you would like to find out more on how we can help with Fire Safety, please get in touch and Contact us, or visit our fire safety page for more information.

Our work in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire and the inquiry means we are uniquely placed to advise in relation to possible litigation in this area and on fire safety law.

We have already started litigation on behalf of residents of a block of flats where there were significant fire safety breaches, and continue to investigate other buildings/residents at risk of future fire damage.

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