A CLADDING company has stated that it provided a quote to fit fire resistant panels to Grenfell Tower before its refurbishment, but was turned down.

Grenfell FPA UK

The Guardian reported on the claims from D+B Facades, with the news source stating that the company had made a ‘costed proposal’ to fit Grenfell Tower with cladding panels ‘that did not burn’, but that this was ‘dropped amid pressure from the Conservative council to slash the cost of the refurbishment’. The £3.3m quote to fit D+B’s system to the tower was made ‘at the request’ of Leadbitter, Kensington and Chelsea Council’s preferred contractor, in 2013.

After a few months, the council is said to have decided that Leadbitter ‘wanted to spend too much on the refurbishment’, putting the cladding contract out to tender to save £1.3m and selecting Rydon, which fitted the building with the cladding that caught fire last June. In turn, the council ended up agreeing to a budget that costed the ‘plastic-filled aluminium panels and synthetic insulation’ at £3.5m, which was £200,000 more than the D+B Facades quote.

Peter Hillyard, director of D+B Facades, stated that the company was asked to ‘provide costs for solid aluminium sheets which do not spread flame, backed with mineral wool insulation which does not burn’, and commented that the thought the system was not used sent ‘a shiver down my spine’. Fire safety experts also told The Guardian that ‘if the solid aluminium cladding had been chosen it would have almost certainly saved lives’ and ‘could also have been cheaper’.

Independent expert Geoff Wilkinson was quoted as saying that if D+B’s version was used it ‘would have performed better in the fire’, while independent fire safety consultant Stephen Mackenzie added that ‘there would have been little or no fire spread, so the lives lost at Grenfell may have been prevented’. The news outlet said that the development ‘will heighten scrutiny of the procurement decisions made’ by the management company and council in the borough.

It also pointed out that the D+B system ‘has passed the full-scale British Standard 8414 fire test’, while researchers are said to have found that the panels used on Grenfell ‘had a calorific value equivalent to 12,000 litres of petrol’, and the insulation foam ‘the equivalent of almost another 20,000 litres’. In turn, The Guardian cited what it said was ‘sustained pressure’ from the council to cut costs on the tower’s refurbishment despite it being in ‘robust financial health’.

It had only wanted to spend £6m but later spent £9.7m when ‘it realised it also needed to replace the heating system’, with Leadbitter later found to have been on course to spend £11.3m, with the council launching a cost cutting programme it called ‘value engineering’. Its tenant management organisation emailed the project team in 2014 to say ‘we need good costs’, after which £300,00 was removed from the cladding budget, and the panels replaced.

Citing the leaked report from BRE that noted insulation ‘provided a medium for fire to spread up, across and within sections of the façade’, The Guardian also quoted Mr Hillyard as stating that ‘Leadbitter sent us quantities as directed by Studio E Architects. Based on quantities alone our budget was £3.3m. 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.

‘Kensington and Chelsea were inviting main contractors to express interest under a ‘design and build’ contract. This was the last we heard and received no further requests from Rydon, who won the contract for the work’. Bouygues, the owners of Leadbitter – alongside Rydon, the council and the tenant management organisation – all declined to comment citing the police investigation and public inquiry into the fire. Source: FPA-UK

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