Fire

High-rises do indeed burn down--at least in Spain; following the disasterous Windsor Tower fire in Madrid, Spain last year, concerns have arisen around the globe about fire resistance in high-rise buildings. Our Spanish correspondent investigates some of the unanswered mysteries behind the blaze, following inconclusive findings from a recent court hearing.(Overseas Report)(Cover story)

THE SPANISH PENAL CODES call for judicial investigations when suspicions arise as to the origins of a fire, especially disasters such as the Windsor building fire exactly one year ago, which destroyed the emblematic 28 storey tower in the heart of Madrid's business district.

On January 31, the judge investigating the fire decided to close the case in so far as criminal responsibilities, as he found no indications that the fire had been purposely set, nor were there any indications of accelerants found in the remains of the building.

The case is now open for civil court actions.

Background

The Windsor building was built in the early 1970s, an era of phenomenal economic growth in Spain. It was situated near the southwest corner of the Azca area, a multiblock urban renewal project in which several of Madrid's landmark high rise office and residential buildings are situated, including the Piccasso Tower, a 52storey, exact half scale of the World Trade Center Towers of New York City,

The Windsor Tower was designed and constructed as per the standards of the period; concrete protected steel structure with light weight floors and glass facade, a typical open floor office building offering plenty of natural illumination and extreme flexibility for office layouts,

The project conformed with the national and local building codes in regards to design and materials, as well as with the relatively lax requirements as to fire protection and safety. In those days, certain measures were required to be incorporated, such as fire pumps supplying water to manual fire hose stations, manual fire extinguishers, automatic fire detection and manual alarm call points, and not much more.

At the date of the fire, February 12, 2005 the fire protection installations in the building complied with existing fire codes. Nonetheless, during the months prior to the fire, the building's owners had contracted massive updating projects that included automatic sprinklers amongst other major improvements, as per requirements for new buildings of similar characteristics.

Nearly the entire building was occupied by one company, the international auditor, Deloitte. …

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