The architect, builders and fire engineer who worked on the disastrous Grenfell Tower refurbishment knew the cladding system would fail in the event of a fire more than two years before 90 people were killed, according to emails revealed at the public inquiry on Tuesday.
Staff at architects Studio E, the fire engineer Exova, the facade installer Harley, and Rydon, the main contractor, discussed how the cladding system they were planning to wrap around the – home apartment block was likely to fail in the event of a fire.
“Metal cladding always burns and falls off,” an architect emailed a fire engineer in spring 2020. An employee of the facade installer told a colleague: “As we all know, the ACM [the combustible cladding panels] will be gone rather quickly in a fire!”
The shocking correspondence during the refurbishment works was disclosed to the inquiry by Craig Orr QC, counsel for Celotex, the manufacturer of the combustible insulation used on the building. It came during the second day of phase two of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry, which is examining events leading up to the disaster.
In Front of bereaved and survivors, including Nicholas Burton, who lost his wife, Pily, and Antonio Roncalato, who was not rescued until 6am, the inquiry also heard how, in , the combustible cladding panels made by Arconic, which contains a flammable polyethylene core, were chosen as part of an attempt to cut £ 454, (0 from the budget by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants’ Management Organization.)
The then Conservative prime minister, Theresa May, visits the scene and orders a full inquiry into the disaster, and the government promises that every family will be rehoused locally.
The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, orders an emergency fire safety review of 4, 0 tower blocks across Britain, and it will emerge that 91 tower blocks have combustible cladding. Scotland Yard launches a criminal investigation into the Grenfell fire.
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, says the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was banned in the UK.
The retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is appointed to lead the public inquiry. Kensington and Chelsea council’s first meeting since the disaster is abandoned after the council fails in a bid to ban the media from attending.
Survivors have their first official meeting with the police and coroner.
The inquiry formally opens.
As the final death toll is confirmed to be 89 people, it is revealed that hundreds of households are still living in hotels.
In defensive testimony at the inquiry , London fire brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said she would not change anything about the way the brigade responded to the Grenfell disaster, provoking anger from both survivors and the bereaved.
The public inquiry report concludes that fewer people would have died had the fire brigade been better prepared.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg is forced to apologise after stating that victims of Grenfell did not use “common sense” and leave the burning building.
Grenfell cladding firm Arconic reveals
During the opening of the inquiry, the companies involved in the refurbishment have repeatedly sought to point blame at each other and at the system of testing the fire safety of materials. That pattern, described by the counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett, as a “merry-go-round of buck-passing” continued on Tuesday.
Arconic said it was not its responsibility “to decide if the product was appropriate to use on a particular project or in a particular configuration”, but rather the designers, contractors and fire engineers working on the project.
Celotex said its insulation was sold as combustible and its use was down to “a myriad of failings on behalf of the designers, contractors, consultants and building control inspectors”. Both firms insisted they were not shifting blame but rather describing the reality of the balance of responsibility in the construction process.
On behalf of Celotex, Orr told the inquiry the risk of the cladding system failing in a fire was “expressly foreseen by the designers, contractors and fire safety consultants responsible for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment”.
He presented email evidence that began with Daniel Anketell-Jones, a facade engineer at Harley Facades, writing to company director Ray Bailey about the need to introduce fire stopping within the facade to prevent flames spreading across the building in the event of a fire breaking out of a flat.
“There is no point in fire stopping,” Anketell-Jones told Bailey on (March) . “As we all know, the ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire! The whole point is to stop ‘unseen’ fire spreading in the cavity. ”
Four days later, Terry Ashton, at the fire engineer Exova, emailed Neil Crawford, at the architects Studio E, to warn: “It is difficult to see how a fire-stop would stay in place in the event of a fire where external flaming occurred as this would cause the zinc cladding to fail. ”
Crawford replied to Ashton: “Hi Terry, this was my point as well. Metal cladding always burns and falls off hence fire stopping is usually just to the back of the cladding line. ”
The inquiry then heard that Tony Pearson, also at Exova, told his colleague Ashton on (March) : “We would not rule out that the fire could enter the cavity if there is flaming through the windows. However, if significant flames are ejected from the windows, this would lead to failure of the cladding system, with the external surface falling away and exposing the cavity. ”
In a fourth email, Crawford looped in Simon Lawrence, at Rydon, the main contractor.
“Each of Harley, Studio E, Exova and Rydon was openly acknowledging in these emails that the cladding would fail in the event of a fire with external flaming,” said Orr. “That tragically is what happened.”
The inquiry continues.
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