One of the central reasons I became interested in energy in the built environment was because of the significant number of people in the UK who live in buildings which are not fit for habitation. Despite the vast wealth of this country, the provision of safe and healthy housing for everyone, especially the poorest, still alludes us. This is fundamentally a political problem – the technical expertise to build adequate housing has existed for decades – efforts to provide it are persistently undermined by those who seek to cut corners and maximise profits.
The tragedy at Grenfell Tower in Kensington is likely to be the single greatest loss of life in a domestic building in the UK since the Blitz. Yet it is not an isolated incident. In 2009, six people lost their lives in a fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell. The loss of life was entirely avoidable. Early signs from Grenfell point to a catastrophic combination of cost cutting, aesthetic pressure from rich neighbours, and a total disregard by the local and national authorities of the warning signs which the residents persistently raised.
I won’t be able to adequately address the grief, the loss and the anger of the residents and their loved ones in this blog, but neither could I pass over them in silence. It will require the persistent focus of those working in subjects related to the health and safety of buildings to ensure the voices of those effected are not silenced. We won’t have finished our task until events like those at Grenfell are impossible.