Socialist Worker

Makers of insulation used on Grenfell knew it was unsafe

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2734

Flammable material was used to refurbish Grenfell Tower

Flammable material was used to refurbish Grenfell Tower (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Flammable insulation was used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower under an outdated safety test, the inquiry into the 2017 fire has heard.

The Grenfell inquiry heard that K15—a plastic insulation created by Kingspan and used on the tower—passed its safety test in 2005.

But the results were withdrawn after Kingspan changed the insulation’s chemical composition of K15 in 2006.

When the new version was tested “the Building Research Establishment had to extinguish the test early because it was endangering setting fire to the laboratory.”

Yet Kingspan kept selling K15 using the 2005 test information.

The BBA board that issues certificates for construction products contacted the company in 2008 to change the safety certificate it had given K15.

Battered and betrayed but still fighting back - Grenfell activists speak out
Battered and betrayed but still fighting back - Grenfell activists speak out
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But former technical project manager Ivor Meredith’s boss, Phil Heath, told the BBA it would pass on any associated costs to them.

Heath urged Meredith to ignore the email, and “let the file gather dust”. They did not want their sales to be affected.

In 2009 Kingspan was given a certification from the Local Authority Building Control. It said K15 “can be considered a material of limited combustibility”.

Kingspan knew K15 could never meet this standard, but celebrated the result.

Several clients also questioned K15’s suitability. Contractor Bowmer and Kirkland emailed Heath, noting that Kingspan appeared “to be relying wholly” on the 2005 test.

Heath wrote to a friend, “I think Bowmer & Kirkland… are getting me confused with someone who gives a damn.”

Testing was recommenced in 2014 and eventually the insulation passed. But the insulation tested was not K15.

Kingspan dropped the new trial product and used the test to continue selling the fatal K15.


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