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September 9, 2020

Grenfell firm ‘misled’ into using flammable cladding

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P
Pa
September 9, 2020

LONDON: The cladding specialist on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was deceived that the “new special super duper insulation” used on the project was safe for high-rises, its director has told the inquiry into the blaze.

Ray Bailey, the boss of Harley Facades, said insulation supplier Celotex made a “big, big deal” about its flammable RS5000 product being “specifically designed for” tall buildings. The civil engineering graduate, with 35 years’ experience in external facade work, told the inquiry on Tuesday: “We didn’t believe for one second that they would attempt to mislead us on this.”

Bailey said Polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam rigid insulation boards became widely used in construction around a decade ago as part of a focus on improving the “thermal performance” of buildings, as they are more efficient than materials like rockwool. Asked about his knowledge of the fire risks of the PIR materials, Bailey went on: “When we were asked to use Celotex on Grenfell Tower, we were of the mindset that these new special super duper insulation products were acceptable providing they met certain criteria.

“Celotex made a big, big deal about their products being suitable, specifically designed for building over 18 metres. They used the term, which is very misleading now looking back, ‘Class 0 throughout’.”

A Class 0 fire safety certificate issued in Britain is the minimum requirement for external surfaces of buildings, with Bailey adding: “If the products have a certificate saying it’s Class 0 we rely on that.”

He added: “We not only read the literature but had their technical sales manager in to go through the project. We sent drawings showing applications with aluminium composite material (ACM) on the building to them. I think we carried out all possible reasonable checks… we didn’t believe for one second that they would attempt to mislead us on this.” Stephanie Barwise QC, a lawyer for a group of survivors and the bereaved, has previously said Celotex targeted the 220ft (67-metre) west London building as a “flagship” project for its Rs5000 insulation, and cynically exploited what one of its bosses called “the smoke of confusion” around building regulations. She has told the inquiry it actively promoted the material despite senior executives knowing it should have been recalled after safety tests.

Celotex counsel Craig Orr QC previously said its marketing literature promoted the use of Rs5000 on buildings taller than 18 metres only on a “rainscreen cladding system with the specific components” used when it passed a fire safety test, and that it stipulated any changes to those components would “need to be considered by the building designer”. “The rainscreen cladding system described in Celotex’s marketing literature bore no resemblance to the rainscreen cladding system installed at Grenfell Tower,” he added.

The Celotex Rs5000 insulation together with Reynobond ACM cladding panels made up the external cladding system of Grenfell Tower, which was combustible and found to be a key factor in the fatal fire’s rapid spread by acting as a source of fuel.