Saturday, 24 June 2017

Freedom Day

A year ago as the dawn Sun peeped over a valley rich with the Summer scent of new-cut hay I tuned into the Referendum results and got the shock of my life. No less stunned were the gloomy, funereal faces of the newscasters admitting the result. 

Since then much has happened. We have seen-off court cases, a hostile house of Lords, internal sabotage and a constant pissy whine from the old political establishment. Much remains to be done. We pray the resolve of our nation's leaders does not falter, that the sniping, bullying and undermining of the EU is overcome.

Yet I take comfort from the election, in which 86% of voters cast votes for Brexit parties, and from a recent You Gov poll that puts Leavers at 78% in total against 22% die-hard remainers. And every spiteful, bullying put-down from the hubristic EU Federast capos actually gains more and more of us to the Leave cause. 

The real Freedom Day will come in 2019 when we are free of the shackles of this despotic little Federation. But for now, this is a good anniversary to remember. 


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Kensington duffer sacked

The forced resignation of Kensington and Chelsea Chief Executive Nicholas Holgate was on the grounds of the Council's appalling response to the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. More on this shortly. The yappy dags of the mainstream media though can't resist adding their own made-up reasons; "and for ignoring the repeated warnings of the fire risk" snaps the Mail, "and for neglect of the poor and of social housing" whines the Guardian. 

Across the country things are structured for the blue-light services to form the 'hard' response to civil emergency but for local authorities to co-ordinate the 'soft' side; power, water, sewerage, food, housing, transport, clothing, bedding, pets, banks, schools. Each council is given a substantial annual grant to maintain an Emergency Planning function including regular training; 'gold' 'silver' and 'bronze' commands in association with neighbouring councils are put in place. So when something like Grenfell happens, the machine swings smoothly into place. 

Except of course it didn't. K&C's response was non-existent. Holgate was an utter failure, a decorative popinjay, who left it up to churches, mosques and sharp-elbowed residents to organise food and clothing banks, blankets and so on. And despite K&C being replete with flats, Holgate's morons were sending DPs to council housing hundreds of miles away. In the event a group of six neighbouring councils had to step in to do what K&C was not - in the process excluding Holgate from the management of a crisis in his own borough. Even the departments of State each set up a stand on the estate and dispatched staff to serve the DPs - but not K&C council. 

It was quite right that this duffer was booted out. It also reminded me of the incompetence of the mayor of New Orleans in the days following the disastrous floods there. Such people must go. They earn their inflated salaries on the basis of a modicum of competence. When found wanting, they must be cast into the darkness.  

Update
=======
I've just found Simon Jenkins in the ES whose own piece mirrors my view:-

It was total humiliation. Yesterday, as the dust began to settle around the Grenfell Tower site, six London borough bosses met to co-ordinate rescue efforts and struggle to repair the reputation of local government. They did not include the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on whose patch the tragedy occurred. In the chair was the chief executive of the City Corporation, John Barradell, with “leadership roles” for Westminster, Southwark, Ealing, Hounslow, Bromley and Harrow. I am told they did not even meet in the royal borough.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

So, it's to be 'hard' Brexit then.

Confirmation from the Federast Empire that Brexit means exit from the customs union and single market will have disappointed a number of 'soft' Brexiteers. The statement came yesterday at the start of Brexit talks between the Kingdom and the Empire. And I use those terms with reason.

Imagine, some time after 1870, if the kingdom of Bavaria told the king of Prussia and Emperor of Germany that they wanted to leave the German federation, please, and go back to building castles and selling cuckoo clocks and lager. Prussia's anger would not only make it certain that Bavaria was excluded from the Zollverein but would take the hit on increased clock and lager costs, on principle.

But doesn't this just make our team's job easier? If this means any grant of UK aid to the Federation - though not the absurd €100bn of aid the EU are asking for - must be linked to a trade deal that replaces some of the elements of the foregone customs union and single market? That any agreed UK aid to the EU is conditional?

And surely, if yesterday's pronouncement from Barnier means we're already on WTO terms by default, we've got nothing to lose by walking away without agreeing a grant of aid to the 27?

Can anyone explain?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Grenfell Tower

Around 6am, 5am UK time, last Wednesday morning I started watching Grenfell Tower burning. It was clear from the footage that the fire progressed on the outside of the building. "Cladding" I said to my plumber. A bit of digging about found the portfolio pics on the website of Studio E architects, of Tooley Street; they confirmed that an aluminium sandwich panel was specified. The architects have since taken down their website and are keeping a very low profile. Their residential portfolio has also disappeared from their RIBA page. 

It's all about energy efficiency. This was a concrete tower block with inadequate insulation and single glazed steel or aluminium windows. To slash heat loss, new external wall insulation and double glazed windows have been a standard solution since the start of the century, and to that extent no problem. EWI on low rise and domestic buildings usually means dark grey PE or Polyethylene foam in blocks up to 150mm thick stuck and screwed onto the existing facade. On low rise this is then usually rendered to give a 15mm thick crust that stops people poking holes in the foam with their fingers (but useless against woodpeckers, who now prefer making nests in EWI than in trees). 

We've all known for years that PE foam was a fire risk, and it's always therefore been replaced by 120mm - 200mm of mineral wool for higher buildings. However, repeated wet work - layers of render coats - at heights is costly and problematic, with the risk of injury if the adhesive bond between render and rockwool fails and chunks fall off. In place of render on highrise buildings the industry instead uses rainscreen cladding, designed to be fairly but not absolutely waterproof. So a void is left between the cladding and the rockwool to allow some rainwater to drip down and be drained without soaking the EWI. Again, not a problem if the rainscreen cladding is not inflammable and if fire-stopping and drainage at each storey is incorporated. 

What we know from the photographs and news reports is that rockwool was used - correctly - for the insulation but so it seems was the inflammable PE foam - if only in a 5mm thick layer in the middle of an aluminium sandwich for the rainscreen cladding. Suspicions that fire-stopping was left out - which would make drainage behind the facade much cheaper and easier - would explain a chimney effect for the fire spread. 

Now, none of this is specialist construction design and engineering. Just about everyone in construction knows the problems with PE foam - and personally I won't even use it for low rise not just because it burns so easily but because it's completely vapour impermeable and stops buildings from breathing - and just about everyone knows the importance of fire stopping between dwellings. 

When those responsible for the design and execution of these works face the consequences of their errors it will not be enough to claim that since the government hadn't banned one material or another they are in the clear. All of us in positions of responsibility in construction have an absolute duty of care and design teams - CDM, designer, engineer, supervisor, PM, QS - are constituted in such a way as to provide post-hoc evidence of exactly how such decisions were made. You can be sure that since last Wednesday each one of them will have printed out and assembled every email from this job, every periodic report, every meeting, every bit of written evidence and will now each be constructing a narrative that minimises their own culpability. Lawyers will have been briefed. We must now all wait and allow the enquiry to do what it must. 

Grenfell Tower cladding drawing from Studio E architects