Rydon’s contract manager on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment has denied assuring the client the cladding used on the refurbishment scheme ‘would not burn’
The inquiry into the 2017 fire that killed 72 people heard a witness statement on Tuesday (21 July) from the head of capital investment at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) stating he had raised concerns with Rydon’s Simon Lawrence about the materials being used.
David Gibson, from the TMO, said he had questioned the choice of cladding in 2015 because he was worried about the fire risk but had received reassurances the materials were non-combustible.
According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, Gibson said he had heard about the dangers of gaps between insulation and rainscreen when he listened to evidence from the inquests resulting from the 2009 Lakanal House fire, when six people died in the south London tower block.
’Simon Lawrence assured us that this would create no problem because the materials used were completely inert and would not burn at all,’ he added. ’The meeting accepted his assurance in this regard and nothing came to my notice subsequently prior to the fire to question that these assurances were not accurate.’
The statement was read out by counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett, who then asked Lawrence if that had been the case.
’No, I don’t agree with that statement at all,’ Lawrence said. ’I wouldn’t give technical assurances unless I had that information from designers or specialists,’ he added.
Minutes from the meeting have not been located by the TMO to support the claim. Lawrence said he never saw any minutes.
Lawrence was Rydon’s contract manager on the project between 2014 and 2015.
On Monday afternoon (20 July) the inquiry heard that Rydon made a saving of around £126,000 during the refurbishment by using cheaper but worse-performing ACM cassette cladding rather than a fixed-face zinc alternative. Lawrence agreed that Rydon had understated the savings it had made to the client.
Asked why it did this, Lawrence said it was not his area of responsibility but, when pressed on why it may have happened, said: ‘It probably went into either risk or into, effectively, additional profit.’
The inquiry also heard that Rydon had failed to appoint fire safety advisers for the job, despite saying five times that it would do so.
According to emails shown to the inquiry yesterday, Lawrence had told the rest of the project team multiple times that ’other contractors including fire’ would be appointed.
However, this was not followed through, with Rydon instead relying on safety advice from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council’s building control department.
Lawrence acknowledged Rydon had failed to tell the client or the architect that a fire expert had not been hired, despite having promised to do so in meetings in April, June, July, September and October 2014.
Fire engineer Exova had been used earlier in the design process before the appointment of Rydon as the scheme’s contractor.