Details are emerging about the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in the North Kensington area of London this morning. At least 12 people have died and at least 78 people are in the hospital, some in critical condition. Shortly after news of the fire, reports suggested that residents had complained about concerns over fire safety in light of recent efforts made to upgrade the building’s appearance, but were ignored by housing authorities.
As part of a modernization effort in the area last year, the exterior of the tower was refurbished with rainscreen cladding, a relatively affordable material often used to keep out rain. According to The Independent, that external facade may have helped carry the flames throughout the building.
“Neighbors had been watching it all night, they said the cladding went up like a nightdress by a fire – it just went whoosh,” one resident told the paper.
Planning documents published in 2014 and obtained by The Independent suggest that the cladding was installed to provide for a better view for the residents of nearby luxury buildings.
“Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east,” the document reads. “The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.”