Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Grenfell Tower tragedy: Cladding company admits that budget mistake led to cost cuts

Inferno in London block of flats killed 72 people

Flames and smoke engulf Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017, in west London. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP
Flames and smoke engulf Grenfell Tower, a residential block on June 14, 2017, in west London. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

The cladding firm responsible for supplying materials for Grenfell Tower admits that it made a budget mistake that ultimately led to a cheaper type of panel being used, an inquiry has heard.

More than 70 people were killed in 2017 when a fire tore through the cladding on the outside of the high-rise flats in London.

An inquiry into the tragedy heard evidence that an estimator for Harley, Grenfell Tower’s cladding contractor, had made an error when providing a quote for the work which led to a preference for Reynobond ACM cladding cassettes instead of the original face-fixed version of the same product.

It revealed that £200,000 (Dh944,700) had been omitted from the price given to the project’s main contractor, Rydon.

The inquiry has heard that the panels used were significantly more combustible than the flat-panel type.

Harley’s estimating manager at the time, Mike Albiston, told the inquiry that the cost of flashing, smoke stops and crown supports had been left off the prices of Reynobond ACM alternatives.

An email, dated June 2013, from Mr Albiston to Rydon’s contracts manager, Simon Lawrence, admitted that the original quote for face-fixed cladding had been a “bit low” and the cassette price had been “more accurate”.

To have used the less combustible panels would have cost an additional £37,650 (Dh177,800), the inquiry heard.

The London Fire Brigade has been condemned for "serious shortcomings"  in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire. AFP
The London Fire Brigade has been condemned for "serious shortcomings"  in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire. AFP

“The shortfall of both face fix and cassette is £200,380,” the email from Mr Albiston said. “But as explained in my previous email, the cost used for cassette was more accurate than face fix, which was a bit low. This would result in an additional shortfall to Harley of around £37,650 if face fix was selected.”

Mr Albiston had previously said that if the client had had any concerns then he would have expected them to have been raised.

“My expectation would be that if, from that information, the supplier had concerns about the suitability or safety of the use of that product on that project, they would tell Harley,” he said in his statement.

“I do not believe I had worked on projects involving Reynobond ACM before. However, I knew that this product was widely used throughout the industry. It was my experience that ACM panels generally were widely used throughout the facade industry, and I had no reason to doubt that they were safe to use.

“The cladding originally proposed in the NBS specification was a product called Proteus HR. This was ultimately changed to Reynobond ACM cladding after Harley were informed by Rydon that the project was over budget. The decision to change to Reynobond was ultimately made by the client and the architects.”

Last week, the hearing heard evidence from Harley’s director, Ray Bailey.

He told the inquiry he was “absolutely not” aware that the Reynobond PE 55 had worse fire performance than the face-fixed version.

The inquiry had heard evidence that tests conducted by Arconic, Reynobond’s manufacturer, in 2013 had discovered that it was more combustible, with the face-fix version of PE 55 being given a C classification compared with the cassette version being awarded a lower E grade.

The inquiry is continuing.

Updated: September 15, 2020 08:17 PM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email
Most Popular