StudentTenant investigates universities with Grenfell Tower-style cladding

Danielle Cullen

September 25, 2017

Danielle Cullen is managing director at StudentTenant.com

After the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire officially opened earlier this month we revisited the university accommodation blocks affected to find out whether retrospective action has been carried out.

Whilst Bournemouth, Nottingham Trent, Newcastle, and Edinburgh universities blocks were originally identified as fitting the same flammable panelling as Grenfell, it has since been revealed that several other university accommodation blocks were covered with similar clad.

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Some universities have already removed the cladding and rehoused students prior to the start of the new university term this month, whilst others still haven’t removed the dangerous cladding three months later.

Grenfell Tower Cladding 

The Reynobond ACM panels, reportedly a cheaper material, is said to be the main reason as to why the Grenfell Tower fire spread so quickly.

Whilst the cladding passed fire safety standards in the UK, other countries such as Germany and the US had banned its use on buildings beyond certain heights due to safety concerns.

Wolverhampton University

Following an initial inspection, blocks B and C of Liberty Heights were found to be unsafe due to having a similar cladding to Grenfell Tower.

Around 20% of the eight-story and 10-storey blocks were clad with the material.

Update: Just weeks before students were due to move into their respective accommodation blocks, the university have announced that no students are to move into the blocks amid concerns about fire safety.

A total of 70 students were initially moved out of the property as a precautionary measure, leaving some students struggling to find alternative accommodation arrangements so close to the start of the university term, whilst others which were due to move in earlier this month were left completely stranded. 

A university spokesperson has announced that they are helping students find alternative accommodation whilst they upgrade fire safety measures. 

Newcastle University

Newcastle University had confirmed that two of their student accommodation buildings, The Shield and Liberty Living, were fitted with a similar flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower.

However, there had been no further announcements as to whether the cladding used had the same fire-safety concerns as the Grenfell Tower cladding.

Update: Since the initial review, the Shield student accommodation has been declared safe by three independent experts, despite using the same flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower.

However, Liberty Living is still not letting students move into one of their blocks due to safety concerns about the cladding on the building.

A spokesperson for Liberty Living has confirmed that the cladding is not the same brand used on the Grenfell Tower, but there are plans to remove all the ACM cladding. 

Nottingham Trent University

Initial tests carried out by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) found that three of the seven blocks of Byron House use Reynobond cladding panels, the same cladding used on the Grenfell Tower blocks.

Update: The university has since liaised with fire safety services, and as a precautionary measure, they have re-accommodated all of the remaining students into student accommodation blocks elsewhere whilst they replace the cladding. 

University of Lincoln

Following an investigation, it was revealed that one of the student accommodation buildings in its Cygnet Wharf development had the dangerous cladding.

Update: The University of Lincoln has started removing cladding from one of its accommodation blocks following the fire safety review.

The Cygnet Wharf development, currently being constructed in Lincoln, is due to replace the cladding material before it is due to be occupied. 

Edinburgh Napier University

Initial investigations into Bainfield Student Halls revealed that at least a quarter of the building had the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.

However, a spokesperson for the building said that there were non-combustible insulation materials behind the cladding, and that other fire prevention measures were in place.

Update: The university has been working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ensure the building is safe.

They have ordered remedial work to be carried out on the university accommodation before the students return later this month. 

University of Bath

Students living in high-rise accommodation provided by the University of Bath have been reassured that all of their buildings have been inspected by an independent student housing charity, Unipol, and the cladding used on their accommodation blocks does not pose any fire or safety risk.

University of Bedfordshire

The University of Bedfordshire carried out independent tests on the fire safety of their student accommodation, despite originally announcing that all their accommodation blocks met fire safety regulations.

It was revealed that two of their eight residential blocks, Liberty Village in Bedford and Fitzroy Court in Luton, failed the safety tests due to having the ACM clad panels.

Update: There still has been no official announcement from the University of Bedfordshire as to whether the cladding at Liberty Village or Fitzroy Court has been changed to meet fire safety standards.

Bournemouth University

Despite the building passing a safety review in January, Bournemouth University confirmed that one of their accommodation complexes was partially covered with a similar type of cladding to Grenfell Tower.

Update: Following the review, Bournemouth University revealed that only 5% of the building is covered by the cladding, and it is believed that no health and safety risk is posed.

There has been no update or formal announcement from the university as to whether any work will be carried out on the building as of yet.

Coventry University

It has been revealed by a spokesman for Coventry University that none of the student accommodation blocks offered by the university uses the same ACM clad panels, or have a similar design, as Grenfell Tower.

University of Essex

A student accommodation complex, which houses students from both South Essex College and the University of Essex, had been reviewed by fire-safety professionals to determine whether the clad used had met fire safety regulations.

The accommodation block, located in University Square Southend, houses a total of 497 students.

Update: A spokesperson for the university announced that none of the panels used on university Square are made of the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. 

University of Kent

The University of Kent has reassured students that none of the buildings on the university estate are high-rise, or have similar cladding to Grenfell Tower.

The university has announced that they are still taking the safety of students very seriously, and they will carry out regular alarm testing alongside evacuation drills.

Conclusion

It’s deeply saddening that it took an awful tragedy to highlight how unsafe this type of cladding is. How have architects, builders, and providers of the cladding missed how potentially dangerous it is until now?

Surely the cladding would have been reviewed by fire safety professionals, so how was nothing picked up?

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it has been revealed that a concerning number of university accommodation blocks used the exact same cladding.

Whilst it’s great that universities are being transparent as to what cladding they are using, it’s still deeply concerning that it was used in the first place.

It’s been widely reported that the cladding used is only marginally cheaper than a safer alternative, so where were these cost-cutting decisions made?

University students are paying thousands for private accommodation, so surely they don’t need to be making these cost-saving choices.

This cladding has already been banned from other countries on high-rise buildings, so why on earth has it even been considered in the UK? Student lives have been put at risk to just save a few thousand pounds.

We’ve seen a surge in private student room bookings over the last few months, due to safety concerns from students and certain student accommodation blocks not being ready for the new academic year.

It’s concerning that some accommodation blocks still aren’t ready for the academic year.

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