London — PIR insulation cladding the Grenfell Tower was only suitable if used with non-combustible fibre-cement panels, according to a certificate issued by the building inspector’s organisation, Local Authority Building Control, in 2014.
Local Authority Building Control (LABC), is a membership organisation for all building control departments in England and Wales. Its certificates are developed by peer review and routinely use by building control officers when checking to see if proposed building systems meet regulations.
The LABC certificate issued in 2014 may call into question the effectiveness of the 16 inspections by the local authority’s building controlsteams before they certified that the building work has complied with “the relevant provisions”.
UK News reports suggest that in the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower, a combination of Celotex RS5000 PIR board and Kingspan’s Kooltherm K15 phenolic board appears to have been used with Renobond aluminium-polyethylene composite cladding.
Cellotex, which produced the PIR installation specified for the building has made clear that the LABC fire performance report related to specific components used in the test.
Earlier this week, Kingspan expressed it surprise that its product had been used in the refurbishment project. ‘So far as we are aware, Kooltherm K15 has never been tested with a standard polyethylene (PE) core Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panel, and we would be very surprised if such a system combining a PE core with any insulation material would ever pass the appropriate BS 8414 large scale test.’
The Guardian newspaper quotes industry sources as suggesting PIR insulation used in the renovation is between 30 and 50% cheaper than non-combustible mineral-fibre insulation. The sources also suggest that non-combustible cement-based cladding panels are about twice the price of the polyethylene-filled aluminium panels.
The Guardian added that ‘cost pressures on the refurbishment appear to have been intense. It emerged last month that the project team specified a cheaper cladding, saving £293,000 after the Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation [which manages the block on behalf of the local authority] suggested in an email of the need for “Good costs for Councilor Fielding Mellen [the local authority’s former deputy leader]”.’
A spokesman for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the local authority ultimately responsible for the Grenfell Tower said: ‘We know there are many questions relating to fire safety standards’ but declined to comment further until ‘the issues have been discussed with the police and solicitors to the public enquiry once they’ve been appointed.’
The Grenfell Tower, is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a local authority to the west of London. It was the site of a fatal fire in late June. Investigations are underway into the 79 deaths which have so far been attributed to it. London’s Metropolitan Police said that the investigation could last for years and that it is the largest ever carried out outside of terrorism. Officers have seized over 20 terabytes of information so far.