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Grenfell Inquiry: Residents' barristers slam contractors and suppliers for lack of co-operation

Majority of cladding suppliers and designers have not sought to explain their specification decisions in Phase 1 of the Inquiry, causing anger from other participants

Barristers representing the residents of Grenfell Tower have slammed Rydon the principal designer and contractor for the cladding system, together with the majority of suppliers of the cladding and insulation, for not making any attempt to fully explain the thinking behind their compliance, or lack of it with the Building Regulations.

In an angry submission for residents, Stephanie Barwise QC accused Rydon of being ’disinenguous’ and ‘obtuse’, while noting that amongst the cladding and insulation corporate participants, only Arconic, the supplier of one of the components, had provided a full statement to Phase 1 of the Inquiry.

A number of the ’corporate’ participants have elected not to give oral evidence, and thus not to appear before the judge, in Phase 1.

Ms Barwise said: ”Despite their words of condolence, these corporates have no desire to assist the inquiry.”

Going further, in her conclusion, she added:  ”It is inhumane to remain silent when so many seek understanding and answers.”

In her submission about the technical failings, Ms Barwise outlined the residents’ position that the cladding system and insulation around the windows could not possibly have been compliant and that there had thus been a failure from one or more parties to establish that they met Building Regulations.

She drew attention to the BRE guidance specifically for cladding, BR135: Fire performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multistorey buildings.

Ms Barwise said: ”Even if the designers and contractors of Grenfell did not trouble to open BR135 they must have looked at the insulation manufacturer Celotex’s compliance brochure for specifying the insulation RS5000 on buildings over 18 metres. When they did they would have been confronted by the same [fire] break in/break out diagram as in BR135, which is replicated in the brochure.”

She said the legal team would submit In Phase 2 that ’reasonable and prudent designers’ would conclude from the Building Regs and the associated guidance that they were required to use limited combustibility cladding panels.

She said: ”At Grenfell, given that it is clear that neither designer nor contractors sought to adopt the ’test route’ [to prove compliance], by default they adopted the ’prescriptive route’, of needing to prove compliance of both insulation and cladding panels by reference to European or British Standards. [Expert report author] Dr Lane has found that there are no relevant certificates.”

She concluded that there were three ways to prove that the system was non compliant ’without establishing responsibility for such non compliance’. Chief among these, she said, was that ’the cladding system was noncompliant because the insulation does not comply and therefore because the prescriptive route is adopted, the entire system is noncompliant.’

She added: “The insulation, which unarguably should have been of limited combustibility, so Class A2 or better, was not, and the insulation between the original and new window infill panels was as low as Class F, as is the Celotex TB4000 insulation behind the UPVC window surrounds.”

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