Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
UoB Accommodation is Fire Safe
Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, the University of Birmingham's accommodation has been declared not at risk from the same problems
The Grenfell Tower tragedy of June this year led to the deaths of at least 80 people and caused serious injury to many more. The speed with which the flames spread has been attributed to the highly flammable polyethylene cladding encasing the tower. The cladding combined with the lack of appropriate fire safety precautions, such as sprinklers, contributed to the destructiveness of the blaze. Following Grenfell, there has been inquiry into the safety of tower blocks up and down the country, including the safety of student accommodation.
In late June The Independent reported that multiple student halls of residence including blocks at Newcastle and Bournemouth universities were fitted with similar cladding to Grenfell Tower.
The University of Birmingham has 20 different accommodation complexes, including Chamberlain. Chamberlain accommodation is comprised of three residential blocks, in addition to the 20-storey Chamberlain tower. Concerns over the safety of Chamberlain Tower have been raised by its residents since the Grenfell fire.
One second year student said, ‘I lived in the tower my first year, after Grenfell I was really paranoid for a while, the photos of Grenfell were terrifying’.
When contacted on the safety of UoB accommodation, in particular the safety of Chamberlain tower, a representative stated that the cladding had been checked and that ‘it is typically copper or brick and fully compliant with building regulations’. The representative also went on to say that fire safety of the university’s buildings is ‘continually reviewed on a rolling basis’ and that ‘there have been no significant issues found’.
The importance of resident compliance to fire safety instructions was stressed, with one common issue being minor damage to fire doors caused by them being propped open. Propping open fire doors also means that they are ineffective in the case of an emergency.
“'I lived in the tower my first year, after Grenfell I was really paranoid for a while, the photos of Grenfell were terrifying'
The university also uses third party ‘partner accommodation’, such as Liberty Living and IQ, to house its students. A UoB representative told Redbrick that the university had ‘received reassurances’ that none of the third party accommodation used by UoB ‘presented any risk of the type that may have exacerbated the fire at Grenfell Tower’.
This has been met with relief from many students including one third year history student who told Redbrick that they thought, ‘it is good to see that the university was so proactive about it especially considering the extent of the problem had it taken place. I hope the same can be said for other universities.’
The safety of UoB’s accommodation is not reflected at every university. One that did not meet the required standards is Nottingham Trent University where 30 students had to be relocated as three of seven blocks in Byron House, above the student union facilities, were fitted with the Reynobond ACM PE Panels.
The safety of all buildings, not just student accommodation, is a nationwide investigation that is still underway.