Combustible: Uncovering the causes of Grenfell

Combustible places cladding on trial for its role in horrific tower fires. It also exposes the negligence and cost-cutting that have resulted in houses being covered with flammable cladding.

The Grenfell Tower fire was a disaster that defined 2017. The task of fully uncovering the catalogue of mistakes and negligence that resulted in the devastating blaze could take years.

However, one fact quickly emerged, and seemed emblematic of the broader issues around housing that led to the fire. It is now known that the fire-resistant zinc cladding that had been approved by residents of Grenfell Tower was replaced with cheaper aluminium cladding with a combustible polyethylene core.

Not only had this aluminium cladding failed safety tests. It had, in fact, been recognised as the cause of a devastating tower fire as early as 2014.

Combustible exposes the infamous record of flammable cladding. With contributions from a range of experts, this documentary reconstructs how this cladding went up in flames in a matter of minutes when a small fire broke out at the Lacrosse tower in Melbourne, Australia, in 2014. The same cladding was subsequently involved in a similar blaze at the Torch Tower in Dubai in 2015.

After the Lacrosse fire, investigators made a terrifying discovery. Weight-for-weight, the polyethylene core within aluminium cladding contains as much energy as petrol. We have, quite literally, been covering our buildings with fuel.

As Australian lawmakers and researchers asked themselves how such a dangerous situation could have been allowed to happen, people blamed inadequate safety regulations and a culture of cost-cutting in the housing sector. Tragically, lessons that were plain to see in 2014 were allowed to go unlearned. Combustible places cladding on trial for its role in these devastating tower fires, and looks at the changes that will have to be made to prevent another appalling loss of life.

The UK premiere of Combustible is at 9pm on Friday 19th January.

Comments (1)

  1. Fe 6 years 3 months ago

    Watching this unnecessary tragedy unfold last summer in 2017, reminding me of how I felt watching the storyline of The Titanic. The feeling of dread, deep sadness and helplessness was all encompassing. Watching the events occur right in front of our eyes, it was difficult not to believe a movie was being watched. As life events mirror movie plots more and more, there could be a risk of being desensitised. I feel I will never forget this disaster as long as I live. I feel it has made an imprint on my soul. The contempt for certain people by so called authorities means there is less care. Less care resulted in lost lives. We know how certain people are treated in this world according to how much money you have, colour of your skin, gender, etc, but here it was being played out in real time. It was emotionally and physically sickening.
    The only good thing I could grasp from this was to see the beautiful acts of the human spirit and humanity that manifested from the tragedy. To see the outpouring of love, help, support, empathy. Some of the lovely aspects humans are made of but we don't see enough. This warmed my heart. Why wait until something this evil, quite frankly happens to show each other this kind of love and humanity. If we lived in a world of love and care and unity a council who discriminates against certain groups of people according to their prejudices would not exist and these souls would not have been sacrificed.

    So many things wrong in this world, but we are the only ones who can set it right... Together!

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