Rainscreen cladding in Islington high rise blocks

The Council put out a statement yesterday reassuring people in the aftermath of the awful Grenfell fire:

‘Islington Council always follows the most up to date advice on all aspects of building safety. I am confident that we have good and robust management of our housing stock, including tower blocks. Since 2013 the council has spent £7 million on its fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works for all its council housing in the borough, and a further £38million of works is programmed. Any lessons emerging from Grenfell Tower will be acted upon swiftly and comprehensively, as happened following the tragic fire at Lakanal House, Camberwell, in 2009. Where necessary, we will also ensure specifications for future works include any amended advice following the Grenfell Tower fire.

“The Council has a robust Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) programme, with some blocks assessed annually and every block reassessed at least once every three years. Local Area Housing Office staff carry out regular inspections which include fire safety issues. The Council’s fire safety arrangements are also monitored by the Homes and Estates Safety Board, which meets on a quarterly basis and is attended by a member of LFB.’

The council has fire safety advice online for all buildings.  (It’s a little odd to me that the fire safety inspection don’t go into people’s flats given that individual behaviour such as installing downlighters without fire safe cones can lead to awful collective hazard.)

The emerging debate following the tragedy at Grenfell features in part the ‘rain screen cladding’ on the outside of the building.  Commentators and local people suggest that at Grenfell either cladding was combustible itself or the gap between the cladding and the insulation it protects from the rain acted as a flue to amplify and transmit the fire upwards outside the building.

Cladding is one way of insulating elderly concrete buildings with poor thermal performance.  Insulation (such as this)  is screwed to the building, the rainscreen cladding is applied on brackets to stand away from the insulation for drainage and/or condensation.  Intumescent strips are applied horizontally at intervals and around windows: when these get hot they expand and block the condensation gap preventing fire transmission for a period.  This is a similar principle used in fire doors.

Islington council describes the approach it has used:

‘Rainscreen cladding is a form of double-wall construction that uses an outer layer to keep out the rain and an inner layer to provide thermal insulation, prevent excessive air leakage and carry wind loading. The outer layer breathes like a skin while the inner layer reduces energy losses.’

I searched Islington’s planning database for applications to put cladding on tall residential buildings.  This revealed the following three properties with plans for rainscreen cladding (there may be more):

UPDATE – whilst planning was granted these schemes have not yet been implemented – Cllr convery says – ‘We’ve now established that Ilex, Halliday and Gambier have not been clad at all.  Planning permission secured but the projects were not implemented. But there are 3 blocks on Harvist which need closer examination. Plus a couple of blocks which are semi – clad.’

Haliday House, Mildmay Street

‘Constructed in 1970, Haliday House is a 13 storey tower block comprising 73 flats.’

The design statement for the refurbishment and cladding is here.  Detailed pictures of the cladding design are here.  At Haliday Islington proposed using Eternit cladding

Ilex House  Holly Park Estate

‘Constructed in 1972, Ilex House is a 17 storey tower block comprising 97 flats in the Holly Park Estate, off Crouch Hill.’

The design statement contains similar cladding details Equitone is the proposed cladding.

Gambier House

‘Constructed in 1968, Gambier House is a 20 storey tower block comprising of 115 flats. The block is located on a triangular site facing Mora Street, EC1’

The design statement contains similar cladding details.  Equitone Tectiva is proposed cladding.

As far as I can make out the cladding itself has an A2 fire safety rating.

I shared this with Cllr Convery, he said:

‘This is really serious stuff. I’ve looked at the plans Will has identified and it seems we have installed a very similar “rainscreen” thermal cladding system to Grenfell. There’s a group of very similar blocks (Ilex, Harvist x 3 and Halliday). We’ve also put some similar cladding into Brunswick (parts) and Gambier House. I’ve asked the Leader and Diarmaid Ward (Exec member for housing) to very urgently re-assess the fire safety of these overcladded blocks. Whilst we have regular Fire Safety Assessments, I don’t know if these have been included in their methodology or risk assessment the flammability of external cladding which seems to be so clearly the factor at Grenfell. There are a couple of diagrams (pp6-7) of the Gambier design statement which shocked me (see Will’s link above) because they show a ventilation cavity in the sandwich of materials (an external panel, a weather barrier and insulation). The design explicitly excludes any compartmentalisation – because that would be a thermal break. I don’t want to be panicky or grandstand this but I am very worried all of a sudden.’

I am sure that Islington like all owners of tall residential buildings will be scrambling to reassess how residents are kept safe in the light of Grenfell. As will the regulatory authorities.  Once LB Islington has got over that, it would be in the public interest to publish all fire safety reports, to have a full list of Islington buildings that have had rainscreen cladding installed and to learn at what intervals intumescent strips are placed within the cladding to prevent fire transmission and how frequently the strips are inspected.


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I’m sure everyone in King’s Cross would want to stand in solidarity with the people of Manchester right now. The loss of a child is something no one ever recovers from. The future will be a hard one for so many in that wonderful city and beyond. Our thoughts are with you.

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Springtime for Kings Cross

Kings Cross is more famous for its intense urban-ness but on a lovely Spring day with the trees freshly in leaf the harsh urban edges are softened a little by the greenery.  Here’s a few pics from this morning.

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Camden council to be replaced by algorithm

In a radical efficiency move Camden Council is to be replaced entirely by software with public services delivered by cash machines, parking meters and street cleaning robots controlled by an ‘artificial brain’. We can reveal today that the brain, christened ‘Theo’ by council officers who are busily coding themselves out of existence will be constructed on a quantum facility in Kazakhstan as the council reaches out to new post Brexit markets.  

Asked why they had gone for a Kazakh supplier, council procurement officer Ron Abramavich said:

‘You can’t get broadband in Shoreditch and if you base it in Kings Cross what happens if it breaks when the underground is shut with overcrowding and no one can get there to turn it on and off again?. 

‘It started out cheaper buying from Kazakstahn but then we realised that we still had to follow EU procurement rules so it costs a lot more’

Asked if Councillors themselves would be replaced by the electronic brain Cllr Blackhole said: 

‘Elected representatives are impossible to simulate – computers are not very good at empathy and besides there is no way you could program them to do some of the crazy things my colleagues get up to.’

On Camden High Street Camden resident, Bob Vole said:

‘What about stairs? Robots always have problems with them – look at the daleks.’

In Hampstead, part time resident Camilla Otter said:

‘Will this make it easier to object to my neighbours planning application?’ 

The brain’s incept date is 1 April 2019. 

[Picture – Wikipedia, Shor’s Algorithm]

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On the Panayi property trail….

Local people will be familiar with the exploits of convicted landlord Andrew Panayi on the Cally Road.  But what is the extent of his property empire on the Cally?  We can shine a light on a small part of it through the properties where he has a license in his own name for multiple occupation.  This map shows the 30-odd properties where Mr Panayi has an HMO licence in his name based on data extracted from the Council’s website.

Council sources tell me that Mr Panayi has a further 30 or so HMOs of which he is the freeholder licensed by his agents including Benjamin Sintim of Harris Brown Estates on the Cally Road.

This only seems a small part of it though.  The Guardian, having spoken extensively to the council reports Mr Panayi ‘owns 200 flats around Caledonian Road’.  Mr Panayi says on camera – ‘We don’t even know how many they are‘ in the BBC documentary ‘Secret History of Our Streets’

Mr Panayi’s empire strives to expand – he is appealing against the Council’s refusal to grant him permission to extend further a flat on the already heavily extended 237 Caledonian Road. The ground floor of  237 Cally has been the site of numerous odd businesses over the years and, in the 1950s an IRA arms dump according to J Bowyer Bell.  It is this property that Mr Panayi expands upon in the BBC documentary describing how he bought it in 1990, filled in the back garden with building and triggers his infamous ‘Build first, get the permission later’ comment.

Any further additions to the map are welcome via the comments.

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They’re stealing our sky again

Community based pressure groups always said allowing the eleven storey building heights at the south end of King’s Cross Railways Lands, now trademarked as King’s Cross, and the building height at King’s Place would result in further high buildings locally. Regent’s Wharf is the latest. Many thanks to Ian Shacklock and Friends of Regent’s Canal for alerting us to the extended deadline for comments on this planning application. You can now get your objections in by the end of February – please do this, it can make a huge difference.

Regent’s Wharf is a large block stretching from All Saint’s Street off The Cally to the Regent’s Canal.

The property developers want to add additional storeys and extend the basement. The planning application includes all the usual information. It’s always worth being very critical of planning application documents provided by property developers; whether text, drawings or artists impressions, they are designed to get the application through. It is only by pointing out what these documents miss, or what they overly spin that communities can stop bad designs or force changes to them.

A good example of this are the photo and artists impression comparing the existing building:

comparison-11 With what the building would look like if the planning application goes through:


Note that the top picture is darker than the bottom one and the shadows falling across the canal don’t change. This is done deliberately. It makes it look like the new floors won’t make a difference to the sunlight reaching the canal, towpath and buildings opposite. The subtle change in exposure used, with the bottom picture being lighter, makes you feel rather positive towards it, perhaps without you even realising. Yet this is pure spin. The loss of light to the canal and towpath will have an impact on our local wildlife and the buildings opposite will get less sunlight. I just can’t stand it when property developers treat people like idiots, yet they do this sort of thing all the time!

And there’s more, lots more to be questioned in this application. We are potentially walking into a Docklands situation. Local people are being priced out of living here whilst prestigious companies move massive workforces in. We lose free and affordable local amenities and gain being on the fringes, looking in at a lifestyle we are excluded from. Regent’s Wharf will only add to this slow destruction.

The planning process is still one of the few ways local democracy sometimes does good things. Please send your comments in. Have a look at the Friends of Regent’s Canal website to see more artists impressions. You can see all the planning documents on Islington Council’s website. Send your comments by email to planning officer Simon Greenwood at simon.greenwood@islington.gov.uk. Even if you just write one line, you could be the one making the difference.

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Open Weekend at St Pancras Lock

St Pancras lockHead  to St Pancras Open Weekend on the 4 & 5 February where visitors will get the chance to learn more from heritage experts, engineers and volunteers about St Pancras Locks on the Regent’s Canal.  As part of the Open Weekend, on Saturday 4th February The Canal and River Trust will be holding a one off gig in the lock between 6-9pm. From King’s Cross, walk up York Way to the canal bridge, then walk along the towpath towards Camden (it’s signposted), you’ll hit St Pancras lock in a couple of minutes.

Works at St Pancras lockActivities over the weekend include:

  • Visitors will be able to walk in the drained lock chamber, seeing first hand the exceptional engineering work that helped construct the canal originally and talk to  experts about the essential restoration and repair work being carried out.
  • During the weekend, visitors will also be offered guided heritage walks from Granary Sqauare to Islington Tunnel. Local trip boat operator, Hidden Depths, will offer boat trips from outside the lock up to the London Canal Museum.
  • Visitors with a head for heights will also get the rare chance to go to the top of the St Pancras water tower. This was originally built to supply steam trains with water, the Grade II-listed tower was moved in sections by a huge crane to its current canalside location in November 2001.
  • Additionally there will be activities for children onboard the Jena, which will be moored at Granary Square.

On Saturday evening (Feb 4th), the Trust will host a one-off ‘gig in a lock’ – the first music event of its kind in the UK. International contemporary music composer and sonic artist, Kaffe Matthews, has composed music inspired by the sound of water as it passes through a lock, contrasting between the dramatic rush of water as the paddles are wound up, to the calm and serenity as the lock slowly refills. Kaffe will be performing the music at the bottom of the 14-ft-deep brick lock chamber, which provides a unique acoustic space.

The gig will be held in three sessions – 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. Come along and join in the fun. It will be first come first served so turn up early to avoid disappointment.

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Holloway Prison community centre call and consultation launch

holloway-for-saleOn Saturday 18 February 12.00 to 13.30 people are invited to gather outside the entrance of the former Holloway prison on Parkhurst Road, N7 to support a call for the building to be opened for public use.

Holloway prison closed last year. It will be three years before any new development begins on the site. Just outside the prison walls is a building that was formerly used as a visitors’ centre for those visiting prisoners. It is modern, accessible and child-friendly. Rather than being left empty until a decision is made about the future of the prison site, the visitors’ centre could be opened immediately for use by the people of Islington.

The organisers say, “We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to loan the visitors’ centre to a partnership of local community groups so that it can be run by them in the community interest. It would be a complete waste to leave such a good resource locked up and unused for years. There are lots of ways the building could be used:

  • A very low cost resource to support the work of the many community groups in the borough. 
  • To provide help to those in the greatest need in our community. 
  • For community events.”

The prison visitors’ centre was built with the help of charity funds. It is on Government land and managed by the Ministry of Justice. So the land is public land and the visitors’ centre is a public building.


screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-13-22-39Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice is planning to sell the land. There is a lot of concern that a private developer will buy the land and build unaffordable luxury flats on the site.

Recently, over 100 Islington residents attended a public meeting in Islington to discuss what should be developed on this large area of public land. People shared a range of views on how the land might be developed. All agreed the needs of the community must come first.

Justice Matters: a community plan for Holloway is a two year community consultation project, independent of government and Islington council. They will be working with local people and community groups to develop a community vision for the Holloway prison site.

 In March 2017, they will be launching the first phase of a community consultation.

Visit www.plan4holloway.org.uk to find out more and receive updates on how you can take part in the consultation.


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