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Council dropped plan to fit Grenfell Tower with fire-resistant cladding

Grenfell©chirlajon webcrop
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Details have emerged of how a fully costed plan to fit Grenfell Tower with fire-resistant cladding was dropped amid pressure from the local council to save money

Cladding company D+B Facades, which fits non-flammable aluminium panels, provided a quote of £3.3 million to Kensington and Chelsea council in 2013.

But according to the Guardian the council later decided that Leadbitter, the contractor D+B Facades provided its quote to, was too expensive and the refurbishment contract was put out to tender to save £1.3 million.

Rydon was then appointed in June 2014 and fitted the 24-storey tower with a cheaper, less fire-resistant aluminium composite panels with a plastic core.

Emails uncovered last June revealed that once Rydon was on board, housing officials had called for ‘good costs’ to appease council bosses. 

At that point, £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and the planned zinc panels were replaced with the less fire-resistant option.

However, according to the Guardian, the council’s housing arm ended up agreeing to an overall budget that put the cost for the cladding and insulation at £3.5 million – £200,000 more than D+B Facades’ quote for the noncombustible materials.

Experts have blamed the aluminium cladding for the rapid spread of the fire at the 24-storey west London block that killed 71 people last June.

D+B Facades director Peter Hillyard told the Guardian his company was asked to provide costs for solid aluminium sheets which do not spread flame, backed with mineral wool insulation which does not burn. 

‘Based on quantities alone our budget was £3.3 million,’ he said. ‘We provided figures based on our own “A1 non-combustible” cladding system and our high-quality composite windows.

’All went quiet and the next time we heard anything was in August 2013 when the tender notice was issued.’

D+B’s system has passed the full-scale British Standard 8414 fire test, but tests carried out as early as 2014 showed the cladding used on Grenfell, Reynobond PE, had failed to reach the manufacturer’s own safety standards.

The emergence of D+B Facades’ costed proposal is likely to heighten scrutiny of the procurement decisions made by the council, which owned Grenfell Tower, and Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO), which managed the building.

The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating possible charges of manslaughter and corporate manslaughter, specifically for ‘any failings of duty of care owed to victims of the fire’.

Henry Columbine, on behalf of Bouygues UK, which now owns Leadbitter, said: ‘We understand there is an ongoing police investigation and a public inquiry into Grenfell Tower and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.’

Rydon also said it was unable to comment outside of the inquiry process. Kensington and Chelsea Council has been approached for comment.  

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