A senior Kingspan manager celebrated a “plainly misleading” certificate that suggested the company’s combustible insulation could be used on high rises by writing “FANBLOODYTASTIC” in an email to colleagues, the inquiry heard today.
The email, sent by technical manager Philip Heath in May 2009, came after the delivery of a certificate from Local Authority Building Control (LABC) which said the firm’s K15 insulation “can be considered a material of limited combustibility”.
This standard of ‘limited combustibility’ is the minimum standard in official guidance for use of insulation on high rises without a specific test of the whole system. K15, made from a combustible plastic foam, could never have obtained it.
The inquiry saw newly disclosed emails relating to the production of this certificate today, which it did not have when Mr Heath was questioned in November.
They show that when a draft was first sent to Andrew Pack in March 2009, who was then senior technical advisor and gave evidence today, Mr Heath wrote: “Make no mistake, this document could be GOLD… Please progress this ASAP to the next stage… Peddle to the floor.”
Later when Mr Heath saw the final draft of the certificate on 7 May, he replied with the single word: “FANBLOODYTASTIC.”
The inquiry has previously seen emails showing Kingspan elected to stop testing the product when it received the LABC certificate and instead “simply send the LABC document and let that do the talking” if potential customers queried the suitability of the product for high rises.
The firm acquired the certificate as it sought to break into the market for insulation on buildings above 18m, where its product was generally prohibited by building regulations guidance.
The only route around this was to pass a large-scale fire test and install an exact replica of the system on the tower. By 2008, Kingspan had passed one such test but failed several later ones – including one described as a “raging inferno” in an internal report.
Mr Pack (pictured below) was grilled at length today about his role in obtaining the certificate, which he characterised as an “admin-type” role – although emails suggested he played a more active part.
They show that he was first asked by Mr Heath to obtain a certificate from the LABC for K15 in November 2008, following Kingspan’s success in securing one for another product in its range.
The LABC is the representative body for building control inspectors at local councils, but offered a service where one inspector could provide a certificate to product manufacturers for a fee, which other council inspectors would then rely on.
A meeting was set up with David Jones, an inspector from Herefordshire Council, the closest local authority to Kingspan’s UK base in Pembrokeshire.
The inquiry heard today that Mr Jones had received no training in the rules applicable to high rises and had never dealt with them professionally, as there were no high rises in Herefordshire.
At the meeting, Mr Pack presented Kingspan’s product literature for K15 along with a separate certificate from the British Board of Agrément (BBA) relating to the product.
The pair then exchanged emails through January where Mr Jones said he intended to “as we discussed, get away from just describing K15 as a product in isolation and extend the certificate to represent a system approval for the whole external wall arrangement”.
Mr Pack denied that this approach was discussed, saying: “My understanding is that we were discussing the product in isolation, and when they went away and did their due diligence they decided it could be pulled into a system.”
He responded to Mr Jones’ email asking if various other “popular” cladding products could be specifically referenced in the final certificate – including high pressure laminate (HPL), a combustible cladding board made of compressed wood fibres.
He explained this by saying the certificate would cover systems in buildings below and above 18m – where restrictions on combustible cladding and insulation kick in.
A draft of the certificate was then shared by Mr Jones on 7 March – which Mr Heath described as “GOLD” when it was forwarded to him by Mr Pack.
Mr Pack claimed not to know what Mr Heath meant by this.
A final certificate was then sent to Mr Pack on 7 May which included the phrase “it can be considered a material of limited combustibility”.
It said the insulation could be used “in all situations… including those parts of a building more than 18m above the ground”, providing the cladding system and the wall it was fixed to were also of limited combustibility.
“Do you accept that the overall effect of this is to suggest to a reader that K15 is a material of limited combustibility,” asked counsel to the inquiry Rachel Troup.
“Yes,” replied Mr Pack.
“And that was absolutely not correct?” she added.
“Correct,” he replied.
Asked why he did not correct this when he saw the draft version of the report, he said Kingspan “relied on the advice of the LABC”.
“It’s plainly misleading, isn’t it?” asked Ms Troup.
“It’s misleading, but you’ve got to read the rest of the paragraph that follows it,” replied Mr Pack.
The inquiry was also shown an email – which has previously been disclosed – which showed Mr Heath saying the LABC had “convinced themselves [K15] is the best thing since sliced bread. We didn’t even have to get any real ale down him!”
Mr Pack, who managed the team which took incoming enquiries from the industry about Kingspan’s products, also told the inquiry he had not seen the actual test on which its claims about K15 were based as this was kept “secret” within the business.
He said all he knew was that it was tested with a non-combustible cladding panel against a non-combustible wall – and that he believed the product would comply with requirements if it continued to be used in this way.
Mr Pack remains a Kingspan employee and is currently global technical support manager, based in the Middle East. He was the first witness to give evidence during the new fully remote hearings made necessary by COVID-19.
The inquiry continues tomorrow with the first witness from cladding firm Arconic.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. Peter Apps recaps
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
Grenfell Tower: a timeline of the refurbishment
Following the conclusion of module one of the Grenfell Inquiry’s second phase, Peter Apps presents a timeline of the key moments during the fatal refurbishment of the west London tower block
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
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
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
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
Week 21: ‘It’s there in black and white isn't it? We see a complete absence of any consideration of life safety’
The story of insulation giant Kingspan’s testing and marketing of its combustible insulation for high rises was unpacked in minute detail this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 22: ‘All we do is lie in here’
In the third week of evidence from insulation giant Kingspan, the inquiry continued to uncover shocking details about the firm’s behaviour both before and after the Grenfell Tower fire. Lucie Heath reports
Week 23: ‘That would have come as an earthquake to you at the time, would it not?’
This week the inquiry took its deepest dive yet into the inner workings of the cladding manufacturer whose product has been blamed for the terrible spread of fire up Grenfell Tower. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week 24: ‘Do you accept that Test 5B was Arconic's deadly secret’
The president of the firm that made and sold the cladding panels installed on Grenfell Tower was asked to account for the apparent concealment of “disastrous” fire tests on the product this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 25: ‘This is quite an incredible list of omissions and missed instances, isn’t it?’
This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard its first witnesses from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) - the testing house which carried out key fire tests on the Kingspan and Celotex insulation products which were later used on Grenfell Tower. Peter Apps reports.
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