Companies “Knew Cladding Would Fail” at Grenfell

THE MAIN CONTRACTOR, cladding subcontractor, fire engineering consultants and architects were all aware that Grenfell Tower’s cladding would fail under external flaming, according to emails submitted to the public inquiry.

The emails were revealed as part of opening statements to the second phase of the inquiry, which today included fire engineering consultants Exova UK, manufacturers Arconic and Celotex, machining company CEP Architectural Façades, and installers Osborne Berry.

Acting on behalf of insulation manufacturer Celotex, Craig Orr told the inquiry: “Whilst expressed in slightly different terms, each of Harley, Studio E, Exova and Rydon was openly acknowledging in these emails that the cladding would fail in the event of a fire with external flaming.

“That tragically is what happened on the night of 14 June 2017. This email exchange shows that the risk which eventuated on that night was expressly foreseen by the designers, contractors and fire safety consultants responsible for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment.”

The company’s opening statement went on to say: “None of the individuals involved in the March 2015 email exchange have sought to explain how their knowledge that the cladding would fail in the event of a fire with external flaming can be reconciled with their responsibility as designers, contractors or consultants (as the case may be) to ensure, or exercise reasonable care to ensure, that the rainscreen cladding system on Grenfell Tower complied with Requirement B4(1). It is currently unclear whether those matters can in fact be reconciled.”

Further statements

Exova’s own opening statement was also brought before the inquiry today.

The statement covered the company’s understanding of the events leading up to the specification of ACM cladding. It also detailed who took part in the process and what was done to comply with regulation, with the company pinning final responsibility on main contractor, Rydon.

It said: “At the time of Rydon’s appointment, the third and final version of Exova’s outline fire strategy report formed part of the Employer’s Requirements, which elsewhere specified zinc rather than aluminium cladding.”

It continued: “Exova’s work preceded the critical decisions in relation to the cladding system; so too did the preparation of contractual documents which ought to have precluded those decisions; responsibility for those decisions was accepted by Rydon.

“Reliance may have been placed on others, in making those decisions, but not on Exova: it was not asked for advice in support of those decisions nor, having been cut out of the relevant loop, was it in a position to give such advice nor even to warn.”

Fabrication and installation

The other two sets of statements brought before the public inquiry were those of fabrication company CEP Architectural Façades and installers Osborne Berry.

The statement from CEP concludes that the company was not retained for any design advice, with its only function to fabricate and supply cladding panels and windows “in accordance with the obligations arising under its sub-contract with Harley.”

Osborne Berry’s statement detailed the installation process, that it was supervised by Ben Bailey from Harley, Rydon, the Clerk of Works and Building Control, with the company not involved in the system design or selection of products.

The cladding manufacturer

Cladding manufacturer Arconic also submitted a statement, which says its product was capable of achieving the required standard.

It reads “It is acknowledged that under European testing some fabricated versions of the product failed to achieve a B Classification.

“However, for the reasons set out above this was not inconsistent with the NCO certification in the BBA certificate, this being a certification relating to the surface of the product, which in a particular system and when fabricated in a particular way had been shown to be capable of achieving a B Classification.”

The company’s submission outlined a number of design issues which it believes led to the fire.

It continues: “there is no information available to us to date that those responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower employed an holistic fire engineering approach.

“Indeed, the many deficiencies in the building would seem to make clear that no such approach was adopted.

“However, as we have already explained, the Company’s role was essentially to supply a product which required fabrication before installation.”

The inquiry continues tomorrow

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