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Arconic told all French customers to use more fire safe product a year before Grenfell

By 15/02/2021No Comments

He was also shown a brochure, published in December 2016, which became notorious in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, which advised against using the PE product above 10m.

“As soon as the building is higher than firefighters’ ladders it has to be conceived with an incombustible material,” the document said. It advised against using even the FR cored panel at a height greater than 33m. Grenfell Tower was 67.3m tall.

It emerged today that this document was published shortly after Arconic developed the ability to manufacture a non-combustible, or ‘A2 rated’, product for the first time. Mr Meakins said he had not previously seen this version of the brochure.

He told the inquiry that he had been instructed to focus his efforts on selling the FR product following a sales meeting shortly after he joined the company in 2015. By this point, the sale of the products for Grenfell Tower had already completed.

Mr Meakins was followed by the opening of Claude Schmidt’s evidence. Mr Schmidt is president of Arconic’s French arm, AAP SAS, and is the only one of four witnesses based in Europe that has agreed to give evidence.

He began his testimony late in the day and was only asked a few questions before the inquiry adjourned, but confirmed that he reported to senior Arconic figures in the company’s US-based parent group and occasionally discussed technical matters with them.

He spoke through a translator and will continue giving evidence for the duration of this week.

The inquiry also learned today that Claude Wehrle, a senior member of Arconic’s technical team who was aware of the tests showing the danger of Reynobond PE, visited the Chalcots Estate in May 2017 due to an issue with the delamination of some of the panels.

He said in his witness statement that he had expressed surprise that so many tall buildings – there were five towers on the Chalcots clad in the material – were making use of ACM PE, but was told by senior figures at contractor Rydon that UK regulations permitted its use. Rydon was also the contractor for Grenfell Tower.

Mr Meakins, who also attended the visit, said he did not recall the exchange. Mr Wehrle is among the Arconic witnesses refusing to give evidence.

Earlier in the day, the inquiry was shown a long email exchange in which a customer of Arconic attempted to get answers over the fire safety credentials of Reynobond PE for a different building project.

Grahame Byrne, of Genius Facades, came back to Arconic multiple times after getting in contact in November 2015, expressing confusion over answers provided by the company’s then technical manager, Claude Wehrle.

In one answer, Mr Wehrle said only that “both Reynobond PE and Reynobond FR are well classified when tested for spread of flame” in accordance with British standards but that there was a “big difference” between the two products when tested with European standards.

Eventually, following a direct request for Mr Byrne, Mr Wehrle issued a letter stating that both Reynobond PE and FR were classified as Class 0 when tested in accordance with BS476 tests part six and seven.

But it added the two products “are very different in their behaviour when exposed to a flame”, and provided test results showing Reynobond PE only achieved Euroclass E, with FR achieving the much higher Euroclass B.

Mr Meakins agreed today that Genius Facades had to push “very hard” to get this information from Arconic.

He also told the inquiry it “should have been quite clearly put to [him] that these two products were completely different, and it wasn’t”.

The inquiry continues with further evidence from Mr Schmidt tomorrow.

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