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
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. Pete 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
Each week we send out a newsletter rounding up the key news from the Grenfell Inquiry, along with exclusive analysis of what it all means for the social housing sector.
Already have an account? Click here to manage your newsletters