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Insulation on Grenfell substituted to avoid delivery delay of just four working days

By 21/09/2020No Comments

Richard Millett QC, counsel for the inquiry, pointed out that the K15 panels would be delivered on 4 July, just four working days before the Celotex would have arrived.

“Was the delay so critical that you had to change insulation?” he asked.

“I appreciate what you’re saying, but when you have got limited materials, that delay can be quite significant,” Mr Bailey replied. “Because you could have teams of fixers not doing anything because there isn’t any material… Rydon [the lead contractor] was also putting pressure on subcontractors to stick to programme.”

Mr Bailey said he notified Rydon of the plan to change the insulation, but did not tell the client Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) or the architect Studio E. The contract did not permit product substitution without permission from the client.

A further order of K15 was placed in September 2015, which Harley paid in cash because it was close to going into administration and could no longer buy materials on credit.

Both K15 and Celotex RS5000 had a Class 0 fire rating, but this was irrelevant for high-rises where insulation is required to meet the higher standard of ‘limited combustibility’. Neither product meets this standard.

The inquiry heard earlier that Mr Bailey had contacted Celotex seeking an alternative insulation product for a previous job he was working on – Merit House – where Kingspan K15 was being used.

“Celotex had not passed a test allowing it to be used on high-rises in a specific build-up involving non-combustible cement cladding panels”

At that stage, Celotex had not passed a test allowing it to be used on high-rises in a specific build-up involving non-combustible cement cladding panels.

The firm therefore told him it did not have an option, but noted that Harley was due to be working on the Grenfell Tower job and should be contacted later regarding sales for this project.

In August 2014, Celotex emailed Harley to say that its RS5000 product had passed a large scale test and was therefore “Acceptable For Use On Buildings Above 18m”.

Harley’s designs then incorporated RS5000, despite the architects’ specification referring to FR5000, a similar Celotex product.

In March 2015, Celotex’s Jonathan Roome emailed Mr Bailey asking which outlet it would use to supply the insulation, saying he would “make sure that the pricing… is looked after for you”.

A purchase order then showed that the firm was offered a 47.5% discount on the product, totalling £45,803. It also received a quote for Kingspan K15 where the discount was only 26%.

“Was the fact that you were getting a discount of this magnitude something which influenced the choice of insulation for Grenfell Tower?” asked Mr Millett. Mr Bailey denied this.

Further emails showed Celotex then contacted Harley, asking if it could use Grenfell Tower as a “case study” for the insulation.

“However, he accepted he was aware that this would be ‘among the first times’ it had been installed on a high-rise”

“Did you get the impression that Grenfell would be a guinea pig for RS5000?” asked Mr Millett.

Mr Bailey again denied this, saying it was intended to demonstrate the insulation capability of the project. However, he accepted he was aware that this would be “among the first times” it had been installed on a high-rise.

Earlier in the day, Mr Bailey was questioned about his knowledge of building regulations and fire safety. He said this was limited and accepted he had a “misconception” that insulation materials rated Class 0 could be used on tall buildings.

He explained that his role on the project was mainly managing the work programme, ordering materials and arranging delivery to site – with some inspection of the installation work for “snagging” defects.

Like other Harley witnesses, he said the responsibility for ensuring designs complied with relevant regulations lay with the architects, despite contractual terms appearing to place this responsibility with Harley.

The inquiry continues tomorrow with further evidence from Mr Bailey.

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