Grenfell insulation firm ‘intentionally, dishonestly’ secured certificate saying product could be used on tall buildings

The company that sold the combustible insulation for use on Grenfell Tower “intentionally and dishonestly” misled a building control body into issuing a certificate that helped secure its use on the tower, the inquiry heard today.

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A Celotex witness has admitted “dishonestly” manipulating a key fire test (picture: Celotex)
A Celotex witness has admitted “dishonestly” manipulating a key fire test (picture: Celotex)
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The company that sold the combustible insulation for use on Grenfell Tower “intentionally and dishonestly” misled a building control body into issuing a certificate that helped secure its use on the tower #UKhousing

Following revelations yesterday regarding Celotex’s “manipulation” of an official large-scale test to secure a pass for its RS5000 product, Jonathan Roper, former product manager, was asked today about a certificate from the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) which confirmed that it could be used on high rises.

He explained that the firm was seeking to replicate its rival Kingspan, which had an LABC certificate for its K15 insulation product that helped it to win lucrative jobs on high-rise buildings.

When Mr Roper contacted LABC in January 2014 to enquire how Kingspan had been awarded this certificate, David Ewing, technical sales director at LABC, told him: “As the board [K15] is described as Class 0 it can be termed a material of limited combustibility and… suitable for use within the wall construction even at heights above 18m.”


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But this was in fact a serious error: Class 0 and limited combustibility are entirely different fire ratings, and many Class 0 products could never obtain a limited combustibility rating. Mr Roper was aware of this, but he did not alert Mr Ewing.

LABC is a representative body for building control officers but it also runs a commercial operation that involves certifying products.

“Were you not concerned that the LABC had confused Class 0 and limited combustibility at a pretty fundamental level?” asked Richard Millett QC, counsel to the inquiry.

Asked why he did not say anything about this, Mr Roper replied: “I think it was viewed as advantageous not to.”

“You decided not to challenge him on his misunderstanding, but to go along with it and to capitalise on it… you were looking to reinforce that misunderstanding to obtain an LABC certificate for RS5000?” asked Mr Millett.

“Yes,” replied Mr Roper.

Mr Roper then emailed LABC some suggested wording for the certificate, which included the claim that it could be used “with a variety of cladding systems” and that its test pass meant it is “therefore acceptable for use in buildings above 18m in height”.

This was wrong – the use of the insulation was in fact strictly limited to the material it had been tested with, a 12mm cement fibre cladding panel. But LABC copied and pasted this wording wholesale into its certificate – even including a typo in Mr Roper’s email.

This wording was in Celotex’s marketing material but would now have apparently official backing.

“Instead of it being dismissed as just sales talk it was now going to go into an official-looking document that would have a profound impact on how building control officers would view its suitability for buildings above 18m?” Mr Millett asked. Mr Roper accepted this.

He also accepted that doing this “ran the risk of misleading customers and building control officers” and that this was “intentional, deliberate and dishonest”.

The LABC certificate was provided by Celotex to Harley Facades – the sub-contractor that purchased it for use on Grenfell Tower. John Hoban, the building control officer who signed the tower off as compliant, also said in evidence that he had viewed the certificate.

Yesterday, the inquiry had heard Mr Roper’s evidence that he had assisted in manipulating the test pass by including additional fire-resisting boards in the rig on which it was tested, and then removing reference to them from marketing material.

Today Mr Roper also revealed that the gaps between the cladding panels were reduced from the 10mm gaps shown on drawings, to lower the chance of flames getting to the insulation.

“Was the intention to falsify the drawings to show 10mm gaps where there were none?” Mr Millett asked.

“Yes,” replied Mr Roper.

Later the inquiry heard that the firm was also manipulating testing surrounding the insulation performance of its products.

A strategy document was shown which said that four to six measurements of thermal performance were taken per day but that quality control would log only those that fell within an acceptable range, in order to present a lower ‘lambda value’ than the boards were actually achieving.

The document said that 40% to 50% of tests fell outside this range and that keeping these tests off the system represented “a high degree of data management and manipulation”. It warned that it “could be identified by an auditor if they followed the process trail”.

Paul Evans gives evidence to the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)
Paul Evans gives evidence to the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)

Mr Roper was followed by his manager Paul Evans in the afternoon session. In his witness statement, Mr Evans explained how Celotex was owned by a private equity firm, AAC Capital, when he joined and the intention was to sell it.

“The drive for profit-making and increasing the company’s share price had been systemic in Celotex’s culture for some time,” he said.

The company was sold to giant materials company Saint Gobain in 2013, triggering the hunt for new products that could be used above 18m.

A spreadsheet was created of the lost opportunities where the firm missed out on sales to Kingspan because it could not be used above 18m.
During his evidence, Mr Evans flatly denied having any knowledge of the decision to use additional fire barriers in the test – despite two other Celotex witnesses, including Mr Roper, saying he was involved in the decision.

After being shown a slideshow that Mr Roper produced – but that he claims Mr Evans presented – which referred specifically to the use of the boards, Mr Evans changed his evidence to say that the use of the panels “did not resonate” with him and that he “did not know why” they had been used.

Mr Evans continues giving evidence tomorrow.

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Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Module one

Week one: A vivid picture of a broken industry

After a week of damning revelations at the opening of phase two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Peter Apps recaps the key points

Click here to read the full story

Week two: What is the significance of the immunity application?

Sir Martin Moore-Bick has written to the attorney general requesting protection for those set to give evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Peter Apps explains what the move means

Click here to read the full story

Week three: Architects of misfortune

This week saw the lead architects for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment give evidence to the inquiry. Peter Apps runs through the key points

Click here to read the full story

Week four: ‘I didn’t have any perception that it was the monster it’s become’

The architects continued to give evidence this week, outlining a lack of understanding of the fire risk posed by the cladding materials and its design. Nathaniel Barker reports

Click here to read the full story

Week five: ‘No adverse effect in relation to external fire spread’

As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry returns from its long absence, Peter Apps recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the fire consultants to the refurbishment

Click here to read the full story

Week six: ‘I can’t recall any instance where I discussed the materials with building control’

Nathaniel Barker summarises what we learned from fire engineers Exova, architects Studio E and the early evidence from contractor Rydon

Click here to read the full story

Week seven: ‘I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance’

Two key witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Peter Apps recaps some of the key points from a revealing week of evidence

Click here to read the full story

Week eight: ‘It haunts me that it wasn't challenged’

Four witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Lucie Heath recaps what we learned on the last week of evidence before the inquiry breaks for five weeks

Click here to read the full story

Week nine: ‘All I can say is you will be taken out for a very nice meal very soon’

This week the inquiry heard evidence from witnesses at Harley Facades, the sub-contractor responsible for Grenfell Tower’s cladding. Peter Apps recaps the key points

Click here to read the full story

Week 10: ‘As we all know, ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire!’

As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry entered its 10th week, Jack Simpson recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the refurbishment’s cladding contractor

Click here to read the full story

Week 11: ‘Did you get the impression Grenfell Tower was a guinea pig for this insulation?’

With witnesses from the cladding subcontractor, the firm which cut the deadly panels to shape and the clerk of works which inspected the job giving evidence this was week full of revelations. Peter Apps recaps the key points

Click here to read the full story

Week 12: ‘Would you accept that was a serious failing on your part?’

With the surveyor who inspected Grenfell Tower for compliance giving evidence, this was a crucial week from the inquiry. Dominic Brady and Peter Apps report

Click here to read the full story

Week 13: ‘Value for money is to be regarded as the key driver for this project’

With consultants to Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) giving evidence, attention at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry turned for this first time to the actions of the TMO and the council. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 14: ‘Did it not occur to you at this point that your budget was simply too low?’

This week, for the first time in phase two, the inquiry heard from Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the landlord that oversaw the fatal refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Lucie Heath reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 15: ‘Have you ever informed the police that you destroyed documents relevant to their investigation?’

Witnesses from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) gave evidence for a second week, which began with a shocking revelation about withheld and destroyed evidence. Pete Apps recaps

Click here to read the full story

Week 16: ‘I conclude this was very serious evidence of professional negligence’

This week saw members of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation finish giving evidence, before the inquiry’s expert witnesses took the stand to make some highly critical assessments of the work they had seen before and during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Jack Simpson recaps

Click here to read the full story

Module two

Week 17: ‘It’s hard to make a note about this because we are not clean’

The start of the second module of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two came with some huge revelations about the companies that sold the products used in the cladding system. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 18: ‘It was just reckless optimism wasn't it?’

As the inquiry began cross-examining witnesses for the second module of its phase two work, the picture surrounding just how Grenfell Tower ended up wrapped in such dangerous materials became a little clearer. Nathaniel Barker was keeping an eye on proceedings

Click here to read the full story

Week 19: ‘And that was intentional, deliberate, dishonest?’

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week heard the shocking story of how the insulation manufacturer "manipulated" official testing and marketed its product "dishonestly". Peter Apps tells the story

Click here to read the full story

Week 20: ‘We were outed by a consultant who we then had to fabricate a story to’

This week the inquiry investigated the actions of Kingspan – the manufacturer of one of the insulation products used in the tower’s cladding system. Dominic Brady reports

Click here to read the full story

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