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UK: Grenfell cladding is used on several student halls across the country

Damage to Grenfell after the fire. Pic: Reuters/Peter Nicholls.

Nottingham Trent, Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Edinburgh Napier are universities whose student halls use similar cladding to Grenfell Tower’s, where at least 79 people died in a ghastly inferno two weeks ago, Buzzfeed News reports.

Remedial works are being carried out now, from reviews and testing of materials, to removal of cladding.

Here’s what’s going at these UK universities:

Nottingham Trent University (NTU)

Tests show three blocks of Byron House use the Reynobond (PE panels). NTU is liaising with fire services to seek an “appropriate” course of action.

As a precautionary measure, NTU and UPP, which owns and manages the building, have re-accommodated the remaining students in blocks elsewhere while more tests take place “to determine the exact version of this product”, according to the joint statement by NTU and UPP.

The Reynobond ACM panels refer to the reportedly cheaper, flammable material said to have caused the fire at Grenfell to spread so rapidly. While it passes fire safety standards in the UK, other countries like Germany and the US ban its use on building beyond certain heights.

Buzzfeed reports the panels have now been pulled from sale across the globe.

Bournemouth University and Kaplan International College

The 16-storey Bournemouth University International College building in Lansdownesite was reviewed last week and sprinklers fitted on all residential floors have been tested.

However, it is reported to use a similar cladding on approximately 5 percent of its total exterior.

But as it is “installed differently”, has fire breaks and has been independently certified to be safe, a spokesperson for Kaplan said “… we have no reason to believe that this poses any risk to our residents”.

He added that that they are working closely with local authorities and fire services, and that they have sent cladding samples for testing as per government recommendation. A fire safety specialist will conduct a further site inspection.

University of Essex and South Essex College

Tests are being conducted on a student block that houses 561 student from both schools.

The review of materials shows “cladding and fixing system” are safe and of a different kind than those at Grenfell, according to a University of Essex spokesperson, who added that the building is far more modern as well.

Physical checks are being conducted as well..

Newcastle University

At The Shield, a newly-built student residence, three experts have declared the accommodation safe despite using the same cladding as Grenfell, according to Mark Slattery, a spokesman for BAM, which developed The Shield.

It is said to have a “different fire safety profile” and is safe, as it is a smaller block where everyone can get out.

Nonetheless, Slattery added: “If anything changes in the advice from experts because of what’s come out of the [Grenfell] investigation then of course we’ll address it.”

Edinburgh Napier University

One quarter of Bainfield Halls’ exterior walls are of the same cladding as Grenfell’s, a physical inspection revealed. They are being removed at the hall that 30 students are currently living in and where another 200 international students are expected to move in this weekend.

However, a spokesperson said the insulation materials are non-combustible and added, “the panel hangings are all made of metal, the wall cavities are properly fire-stopped and the buildings are fitted with sprinklers.”

The building also has other safety measures like exit routes, modern fire alarms, smoke detectors, and 24-hour security.

No less than the highest safety standards

The National Union of Students (NUS) has called upon the government to ensure all university, college and student accommodation buildings comply with the highest safety standards.

“Following the tragic disaster at Grenfell Tower, students have contacted us concerned about the safety of their halls of residence. We are demanding the government takes immediate action to ensure all halls are included in fire safety checks,” NUS’ Vice President Welfare, Shelly Asquith said.

“This needs to happen urgently to reassure students due to enrol in September. We also call on the government to reverse cuts to the fire service which so many of our members rely on,” Asquith added, echoing UK Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s repeated demands following the Grenfell disaster.

guide has been released by NUS for student union staff and concerned students regarding fire safety and cladding, which includes what to seek clarification on and how to take action.

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