Refurbishment of Grenfell Tower breached building regulations

A shocking finding from the Grenfell inquiry was that as a result of the £10 million refurbishment completed just months before the fire, the high-rise tower block was not compliant with building regulations.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the main reason for the spread of the fire were the cladding panels, manufactured by Arconic, “with polyethylene cores, which had high calorific value, melted and acted as a source of fuel for the growing fire”. He found the external walls “did not resist the spread of fire, they promoted it.”

The unexpected finding from phase one of the inquiry was that ACM cladding panels with a polyethylene core were the major cause of the fire spreading upwards through the cladding and then horizontally via the architectural crown, fuelled by other combustibles. This matter was not expected to feature until phase two of the inquiry.

The design of the refurbishment, overseen by Studio E Architects, as well as the insulation materials made by Celotex and Kingspan, also contributed, he said. This is despite the refurbishment works being visited on multiple occasions and signed off by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s building control department.

This matter will be looked at in greater detail during the second phase of the inquiry, when Sir Martin is expected to focus specifically on the design, the materials used and the construction methods employed in more detail.

Sir Martin said the council’s emergency plan for dealing with such a serious incident depended on information provided by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, whose own emergency plan was 15 years out of date.

Neither plan reflected changes to the building after its 2014-16 refurbishment, which had changed the layout of parts of the building. There were no procedures for evacuating disabled residents, many of who were housed on the upper floors and there were delays in the fire brigade being provided with information by both the council and the TMO.

The residents and survivors group Grenfell United, say that the council and TMO still “have serious questions to answer … as do each of the corporates involved including Arconic, Celotex and Rydon among others … adds to our determination to see criminal charges brought against those responsible for turning our homes into a ‘death trap’”.

They added: “All of this will be further investigated, but for now the report is a vindication of the experiences of survivors on the night.”

By Patrick Mooney, Editor