Grenfell Tower: catastrophic fires shape cities for centuries – this one is no exception

It has been two years since a disastrous fire broke out at Grenfell Tower, a residential apartment building in North Kensington, London, on June 14, 2017. The fire is believed to have started on the fourth floor, “in and around” the fridge. freezer. He escaped through a kitchen window, traveled quickly across the siding, which had been installed during recent regeneration efforts, killing 72 people.

Gary Chartrand

The report of the first phase of the public investigation into the fire has been delayed and the criminal charges will not be considered until 2021 at the earliest. However, several houses affected by the fire are still in temporary housing and the tower remains standing as a reminder of this disaster. The Grenfell Tower fire not only survives in the nation’s collective memory, but, like so many disasters before it, will continue to change the shape of British cities for years to come.

Evolution throughout history
Buildings and the urban landscape evolve in response to past accidents and future threats. For example, a long time ago, devastating fires led to the creation of organized fire services. The oldest historical documentation of organized fire fighting dates back to Roman times. First it was the Public Family – a firefighting force made up of slaves – and then the Brigade Corps which had stations all over ancient Rome, from where they could watch the fires.

Contemporary cities are similarly designed to accommodate the risk of fire. Fire stations occupy key positions, so fires can be attacked in minutes. Hydrants are installed that provide a constant supply of water to the firefighters. The way buildings are designed has also changed over the centuries to minimize the risks posed by fires.
They respond to flames using heat, smoke and flame detection systems, fire sprinklers and alarms. Active fire protection systems are often programmed to automatically notify firefighters of an event, as well as trigger the closing of fire doors and the operation of mechanical air vents.

They are also built with fire resistant components such as walls, floors, doors, etc. These create fire compartments inside the building so that the flames don’t spread, the residents have time to escape, and the firefighters can do their job. The escape of the inhabitants takes place through the emergency exits, exclusive and safe routes to be used only in case of emergency.

Memory buildings
Buildings must meet fire standards and follow regulations that have existed for a long time. The first recorded evidence is the rules imposed by Hammurabi, the Babylonian king of Mesopotamia in 1750 BC. C. Article 229 of his regulation established that:

If a builder builds a house for someone and doesn’t build it properly, and the house he built falls down and kills its owner, then that builder will be executed.

Building codes have primarily dealt with occupant protection and, in more recent years, these rules have included the protection of the property itself. Major disasters have played an important role in these developments. For example, in the United Kingdom, after the Great Fire of London in 1666, the building regulations of the city became strict and complex. The use of stone and brick became mandatory, and tiled roofs replaced thatch.
Taking into account their history, building codes carry a type of memory that refers to past accidents and disasters. This memory shapes the buildings and determines the choice of building materials, methods and technology as soon as the building rules are applied. When new incidents occur, the regulations are updated accordingly and in this sense the architecture is always informed of its failures.

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