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Grenfell fire engineer ‘wasn’t told’ about cladding details

Grenfell tower webcrop
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A senior fire engineer tasked with assessing the safety of the Grenfell Tower revamp in 2012 ahead of the refurbishment ‘didn’t know what was being proposed’ for the building’s cladding and insulation, an inquiry into the fire has heard

Exova associate fire engineer Terence Ashton told the inquiry that he did not raise any concerns about the proposed cladding and type of materials because he was not provided with the full details.

‘The crux of this is that we weren’t told what was being done,’ said Ashton. ‘We weren’t told what [the design team including Studio E Architects] were using. If I had been told they were using Celotex, I would have said that is not acceptable without test evidence that it is suitable for use on that building.’

Phase two of the inquiry into the blaze which caused 72 fatalities restarted this week after pausing in March due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The first phase of the inquiry found that RS5000 insulation, supplied by insulation firm Celotex, released toxic fumes when the building caught fire.

According to the AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer, while there was no reference to the use of external cladding in Exova’s initial outline fire strategy report for the project, Ashton admitted that the report could have provided more detail with regards to all aspects of the building regulations.

However, he said that further discussions on the use of cladding should have been led by Studio E, the architect for the project.

Ashton added: ‘They should have said “can we start talking about cladding?”, “can we introduce the topic with building control?”, but they didn’t see fit to.’

Exova has previously claimed that criticism of it is ‘unjustified’ because it was not consulted about the flammable materials that eventually coated the building.

Earlier this week, Exova principle fire engineer Clare Barker told the inquiry that the cladding was not deemed to pose any ’particular issues or problems’ by fire engineers who assessed the project in 2012.

The decision to use rainscreen cladding on the building was taken in 2014 after Rydon became the project’s main contractor.

Investigations into the cause of the fire have concluded that the rainscreen cladding used at Grenfell Tower was never tested, did not comply with fire regulations and was incorrectly installed.

The inquiry continues.

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