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The Grenfell Tower Inquiry will continue its hearings during the latest coronavirus lockdown in England, its chairman has confirmed.
Before proceedings started yesterday (2 November), Sir Martin Moore-Bick told attendees that as a workplace with “robust” measures in place to conduct hearings safely, the Inquiry would continue to sit during the lockdown.
He said: “Depending on how things develop, there may come a point at which the position needs to be reconsidered. But for now, at any rate, like the courts, we shall continue to function in accordance with the thorough risk assessment process undertaken by the Government Property Agency.”
Architect ‘should have appointed fire consultant’
The Inquiry heard from expert witness Paul Hyett, a
principal of HKS Architects from 2004 until he retired this year, and a former
president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Hyett, who produced an as-built model of the façade of a
two-bedroom flat on the east side of Grenfell Tower, constructed from digital
models of architect Studio E and subcontractor Harley’s drawings to present to
the hearing, told the Inquiry that he thought it would have been “very prudent”
for Studio E to have appointed a specialist fire consultant for the work.
Hyett said: “I don’t think they’re absolutes, but the experience that Studio E had would suggest this is a building type that they haven’t done before, it’s certainly pretty substantial and complex, one would have to make an extremely good argument for not having a fire consultant. That argument might be: ‘Well, we’ve been doing these for 15 years and we know all about it, we’ve got some highly specialised architects in the office who have done ten of these before.’ But looking at it from where they were coming from, I think that it would have been very, very prudent – it would have been important for them to get a fire consultant and to use that fire consultant properly.”
He added: “I’m not saying that no architect could have proceeded without, but that particular firm, a partner in that firm – when we take on work, we’ve got to be confident that we can deliver what is required. We have to look at our resources, we have to look at the skill, the size, and we have to satisfy ourselves we can do that work, and do it with a competence and a confidence. I wouldn’t have wanted to proceed on that without getting a fire consultant. But may I just make one quick point? I, as an architect, my own firm before I was with HKS, my own firm undertook an immensely complicated building which was all about fire, because it was a fire research testing station. We did not go out to specialists. We dealt with it ourselves…If you think you can address the problem as an architect, as a designer, then I think it’s reasonable to proceed. But you would have to make the case for why you wouldn’t be going to a specialist. And I think from where they sat, I would, as a partner, have said: ‘We need a fire consultant on this’.”
The Inquiry continues.