MICHAEL CLIFFORD: LONGBOAT QUAY: Gremlins went to work on apartment block

Longboat Quay apartments on Sir John Rogerson's Quay in Dublin.

Michael Clifford looks at the contrast between the fire inspection report on the controversial apartment block in 2014 and those who signed off on the complex’s safety features eight years earlier and asks who, or what, was responsible for the glaring differences.

Gremlins must have been hard at work in Longboat Quay.

There is no other explanation for a glaring conflict between what the construction professionals who signed off on the building in 2006 say, and what a report compiled eight years later uncovered.

A detailed inspection by a senior fire officer in Dublin Fire Brigade in May 2014 unearthed a dozen serious concerns for fire safety.

Yet, two of those involved in signing off on construction of the building have declared that everything was “a-ok” when they gave it the all-clear.

Over the weekend, the architect who oversaw Longboat Quay, Eugene van Jaarsveld, said he could not believe reports of deficiencies in the complex.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he enumerated some of the features that he claimed were a-ok in 2006 when he signed off.

Fireproof

Maria O’Callaghan case study who lives at Longboat Quay apartments
Maria O’Callaghan case study who lives at Longboat Quay apartments

“One of the things that I’ve read is that the walls are not fireproof. That is a load of hogwash. The apartments were built with a 200mm concrete wall separating them from each other as well as the common area.”

The fire brigade report begs to differ.

“Fire separation between apartments and adjoining service risers in common areas is inadequate in respect of service penetrations and absence of compartment wall construction.”

Van Jaarsveld also claims that the vents, a vital feature to save lives in the event of fire, were present and accounted for.

“All of the vents that were required were installed and signed off by the fire consultant and he had it signed off by Dublin Fire Brigade,” Van Jaarsveld told the newspaper.

In fact, the fire brigade signs off on the design. The problems arose because the building was not built according to design. It is the fire consultant who signs off on the finished work.

Here’s what the 2014 report found on vents: “Lobby at each floor not provided with 1.5 sq m automatic opening smoke vents.” And: “Adequate smoke venting not provided within fire-fighting stair enclosure and fire-fighting lobby.”

LONGBOAT QUAY: Gremlins went to work on apartment block

There is also a conflict to what the fire consultant involved in the construction, John Greaney, said and what the report found.

Last week, Mr Greaney said the building was “a-ok for public occupation”. Contacted by the Irish Examiner last February, Mr Greaney replied that he had done everything precisely as his role demanded of him.

“I prepared the fire safety design strategies and submitted applications for the requisite fire safety certificates which were granted in 2004,” he told this newspaper.

“The requirements were satisfied at this point. I supervised the construction works at the stages relevant to the fire safety design strategies; and certificates of fire safety compliance were issued at the practical completion stages in 2006.”

Kevin Humphreys Labour TD, Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, speaks to residents
Kevin Humphreys Labour TD, Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, speaks to residents

However, the report found:

  • “Lobby at each floor not provided with a 1.5 square metre automatic opening smoke vent.”
  • “Building services installations within service riser enclosures accessed from common areas not adequately sealed or fire-stopped.”
  • “Doors to all service riser enclosures not provided with intumescent strips and smoke seals.”
  • “Adequate smoke venting not provided within fire-fighting stair enclosure and fire-fighting lobby.”
  • “Fire separation between apartments and adjoining service risers in common areas is inadequate in respect of service penetrations and absence of compartment wall construction.”

As a result of these and the other deficiencies, the report recommended that a fire safety notice by served “prohibiting the use of the parts of the building” that included all areas above the first floor.

Having discovered that Longboat Quay was a very serious fire trap in 2014, Dublin Fire Brigade had an obligation to its personnel.

The report found there was “an absence of adequate facilities as may be reasonably required to assist the fire service in the protection of life”.

LONGBOAT QUAY: Gremlins went to work on apartment block

The men and women who would have had to enter the building in the event of fire were not notified of the heightened level of danger they could face.

Would they have been told when running out of the station en route to a fire? Is that good enough?

There is also an issue for Dublin City Council.

Was it consulted about the recommendation to serve a fire safety notice last year and did it have any input into the decision not to do so?

Having got burned in Priory Hall, was the council determined that no repeat should occur, whatever the safety concerns may be?

LONGBOAT QUAY: Gremlins went to work on apartment block

One group who have no questions to answer are the owners and occupiers of homes in Longboat Quay.

They found themselves in the building largely on the basis of trust in the State and its agencies.

They trusted that the State would ensure the construction of their homes measured up to basic standards.

And now, with everybody else diving for cover, it is this group of innocent victims who are expected to pick up the tab.

More on this topic

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Longboat Quay residents threaten legal action if they don't get 'meaningful response' in a weekLongboat Quay residents threaten legal action if they don't get 'meaningful response' in a week


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