Grenfell cladding was ‘wholly unorthodox’ says panel manufacturer

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The use of cladding on Grenfell Tower was “totally unconventional” and so it would be “wrong and unfair” to hold the manufacturer responsible for the 2017 fires, an investigation heard Tuesday.

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Speaking on behalf of Arconic, the panel producer, Stephen Hawkman QC, told the court that the cladding on the West London Tower was used in a “completely unconventional and irregular” manner and that Arconic should not take responsibility for the consequences.

The company, formerly known as Alcoa, supplied the cladding panels, which were used in the renovation of Grenfell Tower, which were later found to be fueling a fire that caused 72 deaths.


A 2019 investigation found that the flames engulfed the building at such a speed, due to the combustible casing that acted as a “source of fuel”.

But Mr Hawkman insisted that this conclusion should be put in more precise context.

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In his testimony, Mr. Hawkman highlighted the lack of maintenance of fire protection systems and issues of compartment failure and reliance on the stay-put policy, which were “extraordinary factors” that he said were “ultimately responsible for the tragedy”. “To a far greater extent than the role played by any individual product”.

He told the court that the cladding panels “were able to be used in a safe and compliant manner,” adding that the fire resulted from the way the panels were used, “in combination with a wide range of other combustible materials”.

He said the company had “no control” about what ingredients were used in combination with its product or over the arrangement of its product.

Mr Hawkman also reminded the court of previous testimony from a façade specialist, who said that “a reasonably competent cladding contractor should be aware of the flammability of the cladding”.

He added that anyone concerned about the choice of cladding can easily check for flammability with the manufacturer.

“None of those responsible for the renewal can shirk their share of responsibility by claiming ignorance.”

Mr Hawkman’s testimony was part of Arconic’s closing statement to investigate the Grenfell Tower renovation investigation and marketing and testing of the products used.

The investigation previously heard how Arconic allegedly failed to disclose “disastrous” fire test results, in particular the type of panel used in the Grenfell renovation, “fabulously” in fire tests compared to other options. Worse than”.

Geriant Webb, QC, representing insulation industry leader Kingspan, told the court that Arconic “knew or should have known that the product was unsafe and not suitable for use on high-rise residential buildings”.

While a small amount of Kingspan’s K15 foam insulation was used on Grenfell Tower, Mr Webb said it played no part in the design or installation of the cladding system.

He acknowledged that there were “certain shortcomings” in some aspects of the company’s testing of the K15, but added that these resulted in “nobody being misled in any material way”.

Craig Or QC, representing Cellotex, a maker of the Rs 5,000 insulation used in Grenfell Tower’s cladding system, said the court should dismiss Arconic’s claim that its cladding was used in high-rise buildings in an analogous fashion. can go.

He told the hearing that Arconic’s technical manager, Claude Wehrle, had warned that the panels used in the renovation were “hazardous and unsuitable for use on cladding facades”.

During interrogation, Cellotex faced questions about manipulation of a fire safety test that secured a pass for its combustible Rs 5,000 insulation to be used on high-rise buildings.

In a statement, the company said: “Certain issues emerged regarding the testing, certification and marketing of Cellotex’s products,” which included “unacceptable conduct on the part of multiple employees.” It added that steps have been taken to ensure that none of the related problems reoccur.

Inquiries continue Wednesday morning, where testimony from Rydon Maintenance, Local Authority Building Control, Siderise Insulation and the Mayor of London will be heard.


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