London – The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 has put insulation materials and construction methods at the heart of its investigation.
Published late on 14 September 2017, there are something like 100 initial questions which the public inquiry will attempt to answer. These are split into 13 sections covering everything from the original building of the tower in the 1970s through to the aftermath of the fire which killed at least 80 people.
Section 11 The fire, is likely to be taken early on, following the chairman Martin Moore-Bick’s announcement as the inquiry got underway yesterday, to report on the spread of the fire by 1 April 2018 if possible.
For the rigid insulation industry, the key question in this section is:
How did the fire progress and what contribution to its progress was made by the construction of the exterior walls and surfaces, openings to them and internal structures abutting them? This can be found in Section 11 b part a.i.
Once the fire has been dealt with, the inquiry looks set to move onto other matters.
The industry will be interested in Section 4 of the document which promises to go into considerable detail about the type, use, standards and decisions behind which cladding system was used and how it was chosen.
The section will examine the modifications to the building exterior between 2012 and 2016.
It will ask: Why were the modifications made, it will study the design, materials and fixing to the building. Whether these modifications took account of the internal refurbishment of the building and whether the external modifications were compliant with standards will be considered.
If aspects of the construction were not compliant, the inquiry will ask in Part g: ‘Who was responsible for such failures?’
Moore-Bick’s inquiry will be also put the industry on the stand in Part h.
This asks: What advice or information was available, and what assessments were made, about the components that comprised the exterior of the building, their fire safety, fire-resistance and compliance with safety standards (including information or advice from manufacturers of relevant components)?
It then goes on to assess the validity and fitness for purpose of those standards.
Part i asks: Was specific consideration given to the combination of the exterior components (e.g. cladding, insulation, windows, and methods of fixing) and the fire safety, fire-retardancy and compliance with safety standards of the same?
The inquiry will ask in Part j: How commonly used are: these cladding panels; this type of insulation; any other relevant parts of the exterior e.g. fixings/windows in the UK and elsewhere and are there relevant lessons to be learned from the use/regulation of such matters elsewhere?
Finally, the section will try to understand the how the decisions about the cladding and renovation were made, who was responsible and their motivations. It will ask whether the safety of residents was considered in those decisions, who made such assessments, the process behind them and conclusions.
The public inquiry formally started on 14 September 2017 and is chaired by Martin Moore-Bick a former senior English judge.
Owing to the volume of information to be sifted and the need to gain statements from a large number of traumatised people who survived and witnessed the fire, it is likely that there will be little public progress before December 2017, Moore-Bick said yesterday. He did say that the inquiry has started gathering documentation.
He added that he plans to live-stream public proceedings. You can see the full list of issues here.