More fire safety initiatives planned for Barbican


Work is getting underway to make a block of flats in the Barbican even safer. The remedial work to deal with deficiencies in compartmentation, which is designed to stop fire spreading, and fire stopping between communal areas and flats at Frobisher Crescent, next to the Barbican Arts Centre, will get underway in October or November.

It comes after a City of London survey of found “deficiencies” which need to be dealt with “to ensure that the building complies with modern safety standards”.

Paul Murtagh, who is the assistant director of Barbican and property services, said the Barbican estate has a low fire risk, and has a “unique design”.

The nine-storey block is also unique as it shares space with the arts centre’s commercial operations. Flats are on the top three floors. The Brutalist estate is mainly built of concrete.

Mr Murtagh told residents at a Barbican Estate residents’ consultation committee that the work is out to tender. He also pointed out important fire safety measures on the three residential floors include secondary fire escape routes, hard wired smoke detection, and appropriate door compartmentation in the corridors.

There is also a link between the corridor smoke detectors to the way the fire doors operate. The system is also linked to the 24-hour concierge in Shakespeare Tower. He said he was also working with the Barbican Arts Centre, which has space in the nine-storey block so future fire safety work is aligned.

The fire risk at Frobisher Crescent has been assessed as low and the latest Fire Risk Assessment did not find any significant general safety issues. There are an estimated 138 residents who live in flats on the top three floors. Residents get to their single storey and duplex flats along corridors and can use stairs or lifts to get upstairs.

The block is built from concrete with a brick and block infill. It was converted from commercial premises and is next to the Barbican Arts Centre which attracts thousands of visitors every day.

Among the safety measures in place the report found there were reasonable means of escape, with suitable fire precautions in inside rooms.

According to the last available fire risk assessment for Frobisher Crescent, “it was not possible to determine the standards of compartmentation/fire stopping between communal areas and individual buildings: within the false ceilings”. The inspector advised that “any identified deficiencies be addressed”. The recommendation was given a lower priority rating, D, which recommends remedial  work is “done in the long term”.

The City of London Corporation did a detailed report into fire safety in September 2017 following that summer’s fatal fire at Grenfell. New Fire Risk Assessments were done at all residential blocks on the Barbican Estate in January and February 2018 and the results were published on the Corporation’s website.

Among other safety measures estate staff are hot on removing combustible material and trip hazards outside homes. The Corporation has also sent off three door sets for testing in Poland – as the demand in the UK post Grenfell has been so high.

The door set from Shakespeare Tower gave fire resistance for 36 minutes – six minutes longer than it is designed for. However “it did not perform well in terms of smoke resistance”, said Mr Murtagh. He is still waiting for results on door sets from Thomas More and Breton Houses, which were tested in August.