Socialist Worker

Cladding safety test results may be ‘doctored’, leak reveals

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2593

Flammable cladding attached to Grenfell Tower caused the fire to spread

Flammable cladding attached to Grenfell Tower caused the fire to spread (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Results for tests on potentially flammable building materials used across the construction industry may have been “doctored”.

That’s according to notes taken at an internal meeting of the Kingspan insulation manufacturer.

The notes from the meeting in September 2017—led by Kingspan UK’s technical and marketing department head Adrian Pargeter—were leaked by a staff member to Inside Housing magazine.

They raise questions about the privatised Building Research Establishment (BRE), which carries out safety tests on behalf of manufacturers.

But BRE keeps the results secret, meaning manufacturers have to release the results themselves.

The tests examine a model wall’s fire resistance—and are the only official way to approve materials for use on high rise blocks.

Now these leaked notes suggest reports from tests run by BRE have been doctored.

“You have to declare that you are happy for them [test results] to be made public… People have been doctoring the reports,” the notes read.

Kingspan’s phenolic insulation was used on Grenfell Tower. In a brochure entitled Routes to Compliance—Fire Safety it claimed that this was safe for use on high rises. The firm based this on a “desktop study” which meant it did not need to be tested.

Cleared

Instead cladding and insulation systems can be cleared for use by referring to previous test data without being tested themselves.

Desktop systems have been in use since 2014.

That version of Kingspan’s brochure was pulled following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The notes also raise questions about building regulations in Britain. The government announced last Friday that it would make changes to these to review the role of “desktop studies”.

Yet these revelations come at the same time as government fire safety tests on cladding have been shown to be faulty.

One such test—a thermocouple test which measures heat—was found to be inadequate, as it doesn’t register temperatures above 600 degrees as a fail.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire the government tested seven different cladding systems. Four of these failed.

But two of them would still have passed a thermocouple test.

The entire building regulation and fire safety system in Britain needs an overhaul.

Decades of privatisation and deregulation led to the deaths in the Grenfell Tower fire. These attacks must be undone, but the Tories won’t do it without a fight.


Make Tories pay for repairs

Residents at two tower blocks in Hammersmith, west London, have been moved out after concerns were raised about fire safety.

People from 23 households have moved out of Hartopp Point and Lannoy Point since gaps were found in wall, ceiling and floor joints.

The council had been warned about fire safety concerns but ignored them, according to residents.

Earlier in February it was announced that cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower will be removed from two Glasgow hospitals.

The cost of removing the cladding is £6 million and will be funded by the Scottish government.

The Tories can afford to pay for cladding to be removed, rather than leaving it to local authorities and leaseholders in privately-owned tower blocks to stump up the money.

It was the Tories that presided over deregulation—they should be made to pay.


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