Monday, January 27, 2020

The Grenfell Pass-the-Buck Blame Game

Richard Millett QC, counsel to the inquiry, said almost all of the organisations responsible for the refurbishment were engaged in “a merry-go-round of buck-passing”, taking positions that contain “no trace of any acceptance of any responsibility”. In every case, it seemed to be someone else’s fault, he said.

The company that made the cladding panels used on Grenfell Tower knew in 2011 they were “not suitable for use on building facades” and performed worse in fire tests than declared on safety certificates, a public inquiry into the disaster has heard.

Arconic knew the fire performance of its Reynobond polyethylene-filled panels was below the minimum required for facades in Europe, but the panels went on to be used on Grenfell with the knowledge of the multibillion-dollar US conglomerate.

The main contractor, Rydon, revealed that Claude Wehrle, an Arconic official, had explained in internal emails in 2011 that the fire rating of the panels had dropped to class E from class B and so were “unsuitable for use on building facades” in Europe. But, he said, “we can still work with regulators who are not as restrictive”.

In another email in 2015, Wehrle admitted that Reynobond PE was “dangerous on facades and everything should be transferred to (FR) fire-resistant as a matter of urgency”. He added: “This opinion is technical and anti-commercial, it seems.”

Rydon, the main contractor, who said: “Arconic continued to use the [class B] certificate to promote sales of Reynobond and did so specifically in the case of Grenfell Tower.”

Officials knew using its insulation alongside aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, as happened at Grenfell, could be dangerous.

“We cannot seem to find or design a suitable barrier in which we have enough confidence that it can be used behind a standard ACM panel which we know will melt and allow fire into the cavity…Or do we take the view that our product realistically shouldn’t be used behind most cladding panels because in the event of a fire it would burn?” In the same year, the company decided to enter the “lucrative” high-rise market and it was sold for use on Grenfell nevertheless.
An expert report commissioned by the inquiry on the architecture of the refurbishment has also concluded: “It is probable that Celotex was marketing a product for use on the exterior walls of buildings 18 metres in height that they knew to be non-compliant.”

Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle,  said: "It shows they don’t care and wanted to maximise the amount of money they could make. Ultimately, people have died because of their actions.”

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