Fire in the Kennedy Tower in Liège: how to explain the spread of the fire to all floors?

A dramatic fire broke out in the Kennedy Tower on Monday afternoon in Liège. The fire started in the cellars of the building. The smoke would have spread to the floors via the technical ducts of the tower. Did the architecture of this building from the 1970s play a role in the spread of the disaster?

In the 83 meter high building, smoke spread to all floors. The technical shaft which connects the cellar to the roof of the building is at the heart of the disaster.

The spread of smoke does not surprise an architect, an expert in fire prevention. “Here we can think that the ducts were not completely waterproof. This allowed the diffusion of smoke to the different apartments on the floors. We must realize that a duct is a concrete element which goes up to all the floors, which is pierced in each apartment to pass the heating inlets, the water inlets, the sanitary downspouts And therefore, each time, this wall is pierced by a pipe of a different diameter. this opening is poorly sealed, the fumes can pass through”, explains Olivier De Meulemeester.

When the fire starts at basement level, the technical duct then acts as a chimney flue. The smoke rushes in quickly, carried by a draft of air, and spreads directly into each apartment. The building was built in the 70s. Today, such a phenomenon could no longer happen.

These holes are no longer allowed now

“These holes are no longer authorized now. We must completely close them with elements that are fire-proof, smoke-proof, so that if there is a fire in the basement, it will not does not pass through this duct and it creates a chimney effect all the way to the top of the building”, indicates the architect.

The new regulations in force also make it possible to prevent the spread of smoke in each apartment. “Now in the new regulations, there are valves which close these duct openings in the event of a fire, or foam which ensures that the hole is closed in the event of a fire. So, these are new technologies now” , assures Olivier De Meulemeester.

As for old buildings like the Kennedy Tower from the 70s, only an inspection by the firefighters allows permission to live there to be granted.

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