Although the media has spent most of its attention covering them multiple terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, one recent story has broken through because of its higher body count. The Grenfell Tower fire made headlines around the world for the unusual way in which the fire spread. Flames shot rapidly up the cladding installed on the sides of the building which resulted in more than seventy deaths. Fire officials had never seen anything like it but there is a reason that the fire spread this way. Green energy regulations required the building to reduce its carbon footprint, and so a insulated (flammable) cladding was installed around the building which created a dangerous chimney effect.
Alongside the cosmetic appeal of cladding, it is used as an insulation to make buildings more sustainable to meet green energy requirements.
“It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns,” Dr Glockling warned.[Matthew Needham-Laing] said: “This is not a shock, the problems with cladding have been known about and talked about for a number of years and hopefully this will at least make people listen.”
He said that some estimates were that 30,000 buildings had been fitted with cladding, which is a cheap way of making a building more sustainable without rebuilding it.
While the government’s green energy regulations weren’t directly at fault, they were the indirectly responsible for the severity of the Grenfell Tower fire. Without these building regulations the management company responsible for the tower would never have spent millions of pounds installing exterior cladding to reduce the building’s emissions. Without the cladding the fire would not have spread so quickly and been so difficult for the fire brigades to control. Without the unmanageable exterior fire there is no doubt that the death toll would have been nowhere near the seventy nine deaths that have been confirmed so far.
This is yet another case of the unintended consequences of government regulation. According to reports, more than thirty thousand buildings across the United Kingdom have installed similar cladding to meet these green energy regulations. While that highlights that the Grenfell Tower fire was an exception it is also evidence that it’s not necessarily the last. There could just as easily be another fire that turns into a disaster because of the same problems with the environmental cladding. Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if this issue is even on the government’s radar.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party, has been on a press tour advocating for the forced government seizure of private homes to house the victims of the disaster. Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, has offered government funds to the survivors. Neither one is addressing the root of the problem or has proposed a solution for how to avoid this situation taking place again. They’re both burying their heads in the sand instead of address the root cause of the problem. Neither will admit that government regulations have unintended consequences or seek to reduce those regulations to reduce the potential for negative externalities.
The U.K. government must address the flaws with their green energy regulations that have caused thirty thousand buildings across the country install this exterior cladding. If they don’t they’ll only be inviting another disaster – and one that they will be all the more liable for.