The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 killed 72 people
An insulation manufacturer that provided part of the Grenfell Tower cladding system rigged tests on a competitor’s product and lied about the properties of its own materials, the public inquiry into the tragedy has heard.
Kingspan Insulation hired a PR firm after the fire to lobby MPs and present doctored evidence that its own combustible PIR insulation was no more dangerous than a rival manufacturer’s non-combustible mineral wool product. The lobbying targeted senior ministers and the chair of the parliamentary housing committee, who were considering an immediate ban on combustible materials in high-rise buildings, the inquiry was told.
Kingspan was accused by the inquiry’s legal team of seeing the aftermath of the tragedy as a ‘commercial opportunity’ and ‘doing its best to ensure that the science was secretly perverted for financial gain’.
Head of technical and marketing Adrian Pargeter was confronted with evidence in the form of text messages between members of his team admitting that they lied about the materials used in a test to ensure their Kooltherm K15 product, which formed a small part of the Grenfell cladding, would achieve a Class O rating, allowing it to be used on high-rise buildings.
Kingspan also threatened the NHBC with legal action if it prohibited the use of its K15 board on buildings above 18m, the inquiry was told.
An internal Kingspan email presented to the inquiry revealed that one of its technicians had rigged tests on the non-combustible mineral wool material, used by its competitor Rockwool, a year after the disaster, to show it in a poor light and suggest it could be equally dangerous in certain circumstances.
Earlier in the inquiry, another Kingspan employee apologised for angrily rejecting contractors’ concerns about the safety of K15 insulation. Philip Heath, Kingspan’s technical manager, said he was being mistaken for ‘someone who gives a damn’ and asked a friend to imagine ‘a fire running up this tower’.
One of the concerned firms, Bowmer and Kirkland, submitted its questions to the façade engineer, Wintech, which informed it that the Kingspan product should not be used in buildings over 18m. ‘Kingspan keep repeating that the product… is suitable for use in buildings over 18m. What they fail to say is that it is suitable only in the configuration tested,’ Wintech wrote.
The inquiry will resume on 11 January, after a Covid-positive test led to a suspension of the hearings. Transcriptions of the hearings can be The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 killed 72 people found at bit.ly/CJJan20GTI