Extent of fire safety work needed on Lakanal’s sister block revealed in new report

Katherine Johnston (23 September, 2021)

Marie Curie house’s fire risk assessment was updated in January 2020 to “substantial”

45024Marie Curie, one of the blocks in Southwark with a waking watch

More details on the extent of fire safety work needed in Camberwell’s Marie Curie House have been revealed in a surveyor’s report.

The papers, prepared for Southwark Council’s cabinet meeting earlier this month (September 14) explain that not only is the building’s cladding “non-compliant” with updated building regulations, there are also issues with compartmentation – with some windows needing to be replaced to ensure fire breaks and other safety measures; though this is not the case in all flats.

Non-compliant front doors, which aren’t adequately fire proofed, have also been found in the block. Communal balconies, which are used as escape routes in the event of a fire, have been found to contain timber balustrades – combustible material that will need to be replaced.

The same has been found within the internal and external stairwells; escape routes that contain timber elements. The internal staircase is also not wide enough to act as a safe escape route and needs to be reconfigured, currently falling 60mm short of requirements.

It has been assumed fire-stopping in risers and ducts is inadequate across the building but there have, so far, been a limited number of in-depth surveys to confirm exactly how prevalent these suspected issues are across the block.

The contractors’ report notes: “All risers and ducts should be renewed and fully fire-stopped. This recommendation is extended to the ceiling to common parts which forms a duct in its own right.

“Any ducts formed of non-fire-resisting materials are required to be removed, with fire resisting materials to be installed to achieve the minimum standard of fire resistance.”

Marie Curie house’s fire risk assessment was updated in January 2020 to “substantial”. One issue is an “inadequate standard of housekeeping” with communal rubbish and clutter posing risk.

Other issues that are of particular concern include: Damage to fire batt at ground floor electrical intake; ceiling damage in multiple places; water damage potentially impacting ceiling panel fire resistance; and bin chute blockages. There are also a number of “defective” communal doors, in fire escape routes, that need urgent fixing and “signage provisions are noted to be generally inadequate”.  The emergency lighting system also fails to meet current regulations and will need to be replaced.

As we reported last week, the bill for the project is expected to reach at least £16 million as every resident will need to leave the block while the invasive work is carried out.

At the cabinet meeting, Southwark’s councillors heard that a majority of tenants had decided to leave the block permanently rather than being temporarily rehoused.

The council is now commissioning an independent review into the block and safety works required which will look at why similar safety improvements were made in neighbouring building Lakanal House in the wider Sceaux Gardens Estate several years ago but have only just been discovered as urgently needed in Marie Curie – which has the same design.  The report is expected to be completed toward the end of this year.


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