Report Into The Electrical Wiring In Cedar Court Towerblocks

Building Services (Electrical) Walkdown

of

9 Block, 65 Block & 104 Block,

Cedar Court,

Glasgow

30th of April 2006

Alistair McLaren, BEng(hons), MIEE

ABSTRACT

The three residential blocks at Cedar Court have several serious and a great many minor repair issues outstanding. Substantial vandalism has been visited on the building services and, indeed, the very fabric of the building. In some places, critical plant such as emergency lighting and firefighting equipment is damaged or unprotected from future damage. The entire site presents an appearance of dereliction and would seem to be without properly organised maintenance. Urgent work is required to render the site fit for purpose and put in place the mechanisms to efficaciously manage maintenance issues in the future.

SPECIFIC ISSUES FOUND

The following paragraphs detail the general form and circumstance of the problems found during the walkdown. Due to the nature of the site, it is not felt useful to present a detailed, step-by-step account of each floor of each building, due to the high probability of such detail being grossly out of date in short order. The issues are presented in no particular order.

1) BADLY INSTALLED & MISSING PLASTIC CONDUIT

In several places, the level of workmanship applied to the installation of conduit and cables was rather poor. Some conduit has been improperly cut and displays gaps where it cannot be shut. In other places, the presence of wire nuts and line splices has rendered the conduit overstuffed and incapable of being properly closed. Occasionally, conduit will be missing (presumably removed by vandals) and cables will sag into the corridors in an unacceptable manner.

Some cables are routed, outwith conduit, above the doors of the lifts, in some cases held in place with staples, joinery nails, etc. This appears to be a running repair attempt by local residents due to the cables previously being left drooping at neck height across the lift doors. The present author is not able to rightly apprehend quite why the cables in question are not in the roof space with the rest of the cable plant.

2) INCOMPLETE/DAMAGED STEEL CONDUIT

In a few places, steel conduit associated with television circuits is open. In one place, an earthing/bonding conductor was found loose from the conduit`s stud. In general, the state of steel conduit in the buildings is poor. It seems sensible to revisit the matter to ensure that all metal enclosures are properly earthed and bonded, due to the risk of electrocution.

3) VANDALISED PLASTIC CONDUIT AND CABLE PULLING BOXES

On almost every floor, cable routing hardware has been vandalised. In some cases, the damage has been sufficient to compromise the cable insulation within. The cable appears to be a mix of coaxial and CW1308 polycore, the latter of which is presumably associated with the entry control system or possibly telephone service. The damage thus is unlikely to be a fire risk (other than as a direct combustion load in the conduits if they are ignited by vandals), but constitutes a compromise of security and television service. The damage is also particularly ugly and aggravates the run down appearance of the buildings.

4) FIRE ESCAPE LIGHTING

In a number of places, lighting is inadequate or faulty in the stairwells, in contravention of fire safety regulations. Indeed, on the bottom floor of each block, no lighting appears to have been designed in, resulting in a fire escape which is dark even during the daytime, let alone in the event of smoke. It is not clear from the simple survey undertaken what style of lighting is installed. However, the luminares seem not to be battery equipped, therefore it is assumed that there is a centralised Guaranteed Interruptible Supply or at least a Guaranteed Interruptible Supply somewhere in the building. Given the state of the site, it would be prudent to verify that this is, indeed, the case and that the equipment is fit for purpose, in good order and part of a periodic maintenance schedule.

5) DROOPING CABLE ON OUTSIDE WALLS

In various places, cables (which appear to be power or signal lines for the external CCTV equipment) are hanging down outside walls. Although of no apparent direct hazard, this increases the likelihood of accidental or deliberate damage to the CCTV equipment, which would constitute a compromise of building security.

6) BUILDING SERVICES RISER INTEGRITY

On the eleventh floor of 104 Block, a riser carrying power, firefighting water and telephone circuits to the various floors of the block was found open and vandalised. Upon inspection, the door was found to have been secured in a hopelessly inadequate manner and had subsequently been forced. Inside, power cable conduit had been damaged. A telephone junction box was found open and dangling by its conductors. The firefighting riser did not appear to be damaged, but was, of course, open to vandalism.

This riser is of particular concern, as it contains power, firefighting and telephone equipment. Thus, the simple matter of the door being unsecured raises the possibilities of power outage, electrical fire, compromise of firefighting equipment, telephone vandalism and telephone fraud. ALL riser access should be inspected and properly secured as a matter of some urgency. All equipment therein should be inspected and, where necessary, rendered fit for purpose. The periodic maintenance schedule should provide for the inspection of such risers.

7) ASBESTOS

The presence of asbestos in the building is not an electrical matter (other than making wiring work unnecessarily difficult and expensive), but the present author feels a professional obligation to raise the matter. In several places, the outer layers of the walls are damaged (by vandalism, forced entry, etc.) and the inner materials exposed. This should almost certainly be a reactive maintenance matter of some importance and urgency. The buildings` periodic maintenance schedules should include a visual search for such damage and incorporate a means of raising a reactive maintenance request.

CLOSING REMARKS

In most cases, the damage seen has been the result of petty vandalism to conduits and pull boxes of non power circuits. Most of this damage is non hazardous, but, if left unrepaired, results in a general appearance of disrepair. Such an appearance only results in more petty vandalism. Prompt and effective repair strategies must be utilised to keep on top of the problem, but the extra initial effort will almost certainly be rewarded in the long run by an overall drop in the amount of damage done and concomitant savings in future maintenance budgets.

Consideration should also be given to changing the oft vandalised plastic conduit and in particular pull boxes for something sturdier and more resilient to fire. An ABS box costs perhaps five pounds, a steel one twenty five. Either box will cost about twenty pounds in labour to install. Thus, the second time a box is replaced, it would have been better to use a steel one in the first place. Maintenance records should be able to cast light on the lifespan of the current boxes and permit a deliberation on the relative merits of steel or plastic. Indeed, it may be found best to gradually replace the boxes and conduit with stronger versions, to avoid massive outlay in a single budgetary period.

The following specific recommendations are hereby made:

– The situation regarding unsecured and poorly secured riser access should be rectified as a matter of some urgency.

– The situation regarding fire escape lighting should be investigated properly as a matter of some urgency. There is no excuse for poor lighting in a towerblock`s fire escapes.

– Dangling cables should be repaired before the unnecessary strain on the cables causes them to fail completely, resulting in a substantial extra repair cost.

– The most effective means of repairing or protecting building services from vandalism should be carefully investigated. Sloppiness in or a failure to undertake this will only lead to otherwise avoidable budgetary problems in the future.

– Proper periodic and reactive maintenance schemes should be devised and implemented sooner rather than later. This ensures that the drain on resources caused by continuous wear and tear on the building services is reduced over time. Left to fester, the rising cost of putting the site to rights will only become an excuse for not attending to the matter.

APPENDIX: SELECTION OF SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF ISSUES

9 BLOCK

11th floor: Door entry system panel unlocked. Shock hazard from power wiring. Security compromised.

15th floor: Lighting out, repairs impossible due to asbestos

14th floor: Lighting out, repairs impossible due to asbestos

13th floor: Lighting out, repairs impossible due to asbestos

Various floors: Plastic conduit & pull boxes fire damaged

65 BLOCK

22nd floor: Luminaire poorly installed, overstuffed conduit

11th floor: DES/CATV box unsecured

Various floors: Plastic conduit & pull boxes fire damaged

104 BLOCK

11th floor: Riser open and vandalised

1st floor: Steel conduit damaged, cables drooping (seems to include power cables)

Various floors: Plastic conduit & pull boxes fire damaged

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