It was agreed there was no code of practice for industrialised buildings …

July 1968

The Ronan Point inquiry

When the inquiry into the flats disaster at Ronan Point, east London, was resumed at East Ham, the chairman, Hugh Griffiths QC, said that the joints should be examined “as a matter of urgency”. Experts had expressed a difference of views about the state of the joints, and he asked for an examination at once.

The following day, Robert Hartland, an engineer, reporting on tests carried out on floor and walls joints at Ronan Point, said they were satisfactory in his opinion.

Mr Hartland said it was practical for a structure to be built so that floors below a point of failure would not be affected by a progressive collapse. The difficulty was finding a way to prevent a collapse above an explosion point. This would involved extra cost and time in erection.

Giving evidence earlier in the resumed inquiry, Victor Watson, chief engineer of Phillips Consultants, a subsidiary of Taylor Woodrow Anglian, agreed with the theory that if a flank wall fell out of Ronan Point and providing there was sufficient weight above it, there would be a collapse of other sections of the building.

He said: “As an engineer I learn from the past. I would in essence try to prevent components falling on other components. This would of course only help to save floors below the explosion point.” He recommended that floors above a certain point could be built in a “staggered” system to produce a cantilever effect without a collapse. He added: “It is very easy to be wise after the event.”

He agreed with E. Goodfellow, for Taylor Woodrow, that there was no code of engineering practice laid down in the industrialised buildings unit system industry.

Mr Hartland said: “Generally speaking, anyone involved in industrialised building has to rely on his judgment and skill.”

Mr Hartland, in reply to Edward Eveleigh, QC for the Treasury, said: “Any building will be that much stronger if you made the joints (wall and floor) that much stronger.”

Bernard Clark, consulting engineer, told Mr Eveleigh: “It is quite possible to turn this type of structure into a very, very rigid egg-box. If this was so I should be happy to predict that the floors above the failure point would not collapse.”

He said the egg box structure could be built if there was added reinforcement from panel to panel in separate panels of a building. He thought it would add 5% to costs.

Mr Eveleigh asked: “If there was no gas in this building, and no other source of explosion, would you then say the building was safe?”

Mr Clark replied: “No, because in the lower storeys we have reached a very high state of stress with many tons of pressure bearing down on them. It is reaching the limit of what they can take.”