Future public buildings may be subject to a range of new requirements

Letter to the Editor from Henry Walsh

Cyril Le Marquand House. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30390775)
Cyril Le Marquand House. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30390775)

TWO aspects of recent developments in the UK and worldwide are relevant to both the proposed new hospital and the rebuilding of Cyril Le Marquand House.

The first is Grenfell. There is obviously going to have to be a review of fire safety in buildings in the UK going well beyond cladding in scope. There could be far-reaching regulatory changes not just for high buildings, but for other domestic and office structures. Whether the outcome will go as far as requiring sprinklers in buildings above a certain height or new restrictions on the use of timber in domestic dwellings no one can say, but clearly the use of foam at any rate is going to have to be reviewed.

I hope the use of plastic foam will be avoided in new construction in Jersey. I notice from a hole that someone has dug out with their finger that there is such foam behind a skim of rendering or thick paint in the bus station, but obviously whether this foam is flammable or not I have not tested. Foam could turn out to be the new asbestos, to be avoided at all cost. Asbestos had at least the merit of being superbly fire retardant.

The second is Covid and the need to improve ventilation everywhere to avoid the build-up of the aerosols that can carry a virus such as Covid. The level of cross-infection in hospitals, and care homes has been truly shocking almost everywhere and I think we are dreaming if we think further viruses are not coming our way.

Humans are getting more crowded and living closer to animals that can give rise to virus transfers. Towers are especially vulnerable to problems because they inevitably have ‘choke points’ such as lifts. Spread-out hospitals would seem to be the safer option – even recognising that land is scarce in Jersey. Such hospital would also be more adaptable and able to facilitate isolation between groups of patients.

Ventilation is a problem because the particles involved are microscopic and I do not know if practical technology even exists to screen them out. The other option of dilution of internal air by a higher proportion of fresh air has severe energy consequences in winter and is not helpful to a green agenda. But at least provision should be made with adequate ducts to make large air transfers and air blending possible in any new construction.

These are probably obvious points, but you never know.

15 Douet de Ste Croix, Route ès Nouaux, St Helier.

For more Letters to the Editor, comment and opinion pieces, see today's Jersey Evening Post.

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