Scots universities check buildings after Grenfell tragedy

Aerial view of Bainfield student accommodation. Picture: Whitehouse Studios
Aerial view of Bainfield student accommodation. Picture: Whitehouse Studios
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Universities and colleges across Scotland are carrying out safety checks on buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The representative body of the nation’s higher education institutions said its members were conducting the inspections to make sure any cladding used meets the “highest standards of fire safety”.

It comes as work gets under way to remove and replace cladding at a student hall of residence at Edinburgh Napier University.

Following an audit, it emerged the cladding was the same kind as that used on the London high rise. At least 80 people are presumed dead following a fire at the Kensington building earlier this month.

With work under way by local authorities to identify other buildings potentially at risk, Universities Scotland said higher education bodies were following suit.

A spokesman said: “Universities across Scotland are working to reassess the over-cladding of their building façades to ensure they meet the highest standards of fire safety.

“Universities will be in close contact with the Scottish Government, the relevant authorities and the network of university estates directors across the country to share best practice throughout this process.”

So far, no other organisation has reported concerns following the checks. Some, such as Queen Margaret University, do not use cladding at all, while others, including the University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow Kelvin College, and North East Scotland College, are continuing to carry out reviews.

At Edinburgh Napier , the work on the affected building, Banfield Halls, is expected to take around six to eight weeks to complete.

An inspection revealed that around a quarter of the exterior walls on the building used the cladding, but residents are not being evacuated after the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service deemed it safe. The university has pointed out that the insulation materials behind the cladding panels are non-combustible, while wall cavities are fire-stopped, with sprinklers installed.

The Universities Scotland spokesman said that Napier University was taking “swift action” to address the classing issue, adding: “Importantly, a number of additional fire safety features are in place at Bainfield.

“The university is taking a number of steps to reassure residents and the community of their safety.”

Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said its buildings were also reviewed following the Grenfell fire, but it found that every structure was designed and constructed in line with Scottish building regulations.

Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday that 120 tower blocks in England have combustible cladding which failed government fire safety tests.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said every cladding sample tested so far was found to have combustible material, affecting high-rise blocks across 37 local authority areas in England.

She urged councils and housing associations to “get on” with fire safety checks without waiting for test results.

No local authority or housing association tower blocks in Scotland have been found to use the same material as that in the Grenfell tragedy.