Nearly two weeks after a major fire destroyed a 24-storey block of flats in west London, the repercussions of what happened to the Grenfell Tower continue to be felt across the UK, and much farther afield.
The political fallout has been immense, with criticisms levelled at everyone from the company that manufactured the cladding used, to the council that managed the tower block, right up to the country’s prime minister. British media have followed the story of the hundreds of residents, who found themselves homeless, lodged in temporary accommodation and, in some cases, later asked to leave. Hard questions have been asked of government ministers and thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest the fire and its aftermath.
Another council in London last week evacuated five tower blocks, moving 800 households out of their homes and into temporary accommodation, saying they could not guarantee their safety. Across the country, at least 15 local authorities reported that tower blocks in their area had cladding that had failed fire safety tests.
With such media and political focus on the tragedy, it is inevitable that questions have been asked around the world about the cladding used in buildings there. In the UAE, companies that manufacture cladding used in UAE buildings clarified that such fires could not happen in the country, because of new rules introduced at the start of this year that specified fire-resistant panels.
That would have provided comfort to many, but there remain potentially dozens, perhaps hundreds, of buildings with cladding that needs to be inspected. One mechanism to deal with this issue is to introduce a level of transparency into what cladding is used on which buildings, and allow the market to decide.
If developers had to specify what kind of cladding was used on their buildings, tenants could choose whether to live there or not – and those with cladding tenants disliked would attract lower rents. A rating system, similar to that used for sustainable design of buildings in Abu Dhabi, called Estidama, could be used. That way, people would know what covers the places in which they live.