The cladding sub-contractor involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower pushed for a more dangerous cladding system after its estimator incorrectly priced the job by £200,000.
Taking questions at the Grenfell Inquiry today, Mike Albiston, an estimator for the Grenfell project at Harley Facades, admitted that he had made a mistake when initially costing the project.
The inquiry heard that this mistake saw Mr Albiston miss a number of items off his initial costings for a Reynobond aluminium composite material (ACM) system on the tower, meaning that the savings it would achieve when compared to the preferred zinc-based Proteus HR cladding system was only £376,000, compared with the £576,000 initially put forward by Mr Albiston.
Architecture firm Studio E wanted to use Proteus, with Reynobond ACM listed among potential alternatives.
As part of Mr Albiston’s work, he was asked to present the cost savings that a Reynobond ACM system would generate when compared to the Proteus system.
The mistake meant there was a shortfall of £200,000 in Harley’s quote but Mr Albiston explained to lead contractor Rydon and the management at Harley Facades that this would be reduced to £162,750, if the project opted for ‘cassette’ installation rather than face-fixed panels.
Cassette panels are cut in a way that allows them to be hung on hidden rails, whereas face-fixed panels are essentially bolted into place with rivets. It has previously been revealed in the inquiry that ACM panels installed in cassette form had a far worse fire performance than face-fixed panels, with cassette panels performing a whole three grades lower when tested.
When asked by lead counsel Richard Millett whether cassette was the better option from Harley’s point of view, Mr Albiston said he believed it was.
At the time Harley would not have known the different fire performance between face-fixed ACM panels or those installed in cassette form.
The inquiry later saw an email sent by Bruce Sounes, project lead at Studio E, to Harley Facades. In the email, Mr Sounes commented on potentially using cassette panels to appease planners.
Commenting on Mr Sounes’ email, Mark Harris, Harley’s commercial manager at the time, wrote in his own email to colleagues that Studio E’s comments were “interesting” and “might help with Harley’s predicament”.
Mr Harris continued: “I’ve not spoken about the cost issues as yet with Simon Lawrence [contracts manager at Rydon], I will keep quiet and see how this plays out.”
This came despite Simon Lawrence from Rydon saying in an email in May 2014 that to meet the client’s requested budget, Grenfell’s cladding needed to be “face-fixed and flat sheet”.
Mr Harris responded to Mr Lawrence in an email that while the face-fixed option could be achieved, “as discussed on site, our preference would be cassette for a lot of reasons”.
When asked by Mr Millett whether Harley’s desire to opt for cassette installation was driven by its own financial interests and whether Mr Harris’ “lots of reasons” was referring to the money this option would save, Mr Albiston agreed it was.
Mr Albiston added that Harley had no knowledge that Reynobond ACM was significantly more combustible than in its riveted format, adding that he was unaware of anyone at the company discussing the different safety performances of the two systems.
Today’s hearings also saw Daniel Anketell-Jones, Harley’s design manager at the time of the refurbishment, questioned.
In his evidence it was revealed that a number of inaccuracies were included in the CV Harley put forward for Mr Anketell-Jones in its bid for the work. This included two projects that he had never worked on, and several skills that he admitted in today’s hearing he did not possess.
Mr Anketell-Jones said that he had never seen the document before and that it had been filled out and submitted without his knowledge or consent.
The inquiry continues with further evidence from Mr Anketell-Jones tomorrow.
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
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