In the wake of the ghastly conflagration that engulfed a recently renovated 24-story apartment tower in London, the world is waking up to the dire threat created by energy-saving green zealots. It turns out that nobody much worried about the fire hazard involved when flammable materials were used to add an outer "skin" of cladding to the building, creating heat insulation thanks to the air pocket between the new cladding and the old exterior wall, but also providing an ideal space for fire to race up the building. As happened.
The U.K. Telegraph reports:
Fears were raised that green energy concerns were prioritised ahead of safety as it emerged that cladding used to make the building more sustainable could have accelerated the fire.On Wednesday night, police confirmed 12 people had died following the blaze at Grenfell House in Kensington, west London, but they expected the death toll to rise.Hundreds of the roughly 500 residents in the block were unaccounted for. Some estimated that the death toll could rise above 100.
The residents had been complaining for years about fire hazards and the lack of a sprinkler system. Those fears were more than justified, it turns out:
Government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.It was installed on the council-owned Grenfell block in 2015 as part of a £10 million refurbishment by a company which was later liquidated after a firm they were working with refused to pay out in a dispute over their work.
"Council-owned" is the British descriptor for public housing. The money spent on renovation may have pleased greens with its energy savings, but the cost may reach 100 lives or more.
I know that in some jurisdictions in the United States, energy-saving measures are mandatory on new construction. What I do not know is how many fire hazards have been created. In the U.K.:
Tens of thousands of buildings in the UK have been fitted with cladding, it is estimated, leading to calls for an immediate review of safety.Experts said that the cladding – which is used to insulate the building – had acted like a "chimney" for the flames by allowing the fire to spread upwards through the gaps between the cladding and the building walls.
Did green fever cause the obvious fire hazard to be ignored? We simply do not know. But the zealotry of those who are convinced that CO2 increases are dooming us could well prioritize energy savings above safety. As seems to have been done in London.
How many more green death traps are out there? Tens of thousands in the U.K., but how many in the USA?
The EPA sponsors the Energy Star certification for buildings. A quick look at the site does not reveal any emphasis on fire safety. But there certainly are a lot of properties signing up:
They're also growing in number. Since the first building earned the ENERGY STAR in 1999, tens of thousands of additional buildings have followed in its lower-carbon footprints. Will your building be next?
"Will your building be next?" seems a bit ominous in light of what we now know. Saving energy is fine, but there are tradeoffs, and human lives did not weigh heavily enough when that flammable cladding was used.