Grenfell Tower contractors appeared more concerned about “cost and delay” than fire safety, the inquiry into the disaster heard as campaigners marked 1,000 days since the fire.
During discussions about installing cavity barriers designed to stop flames in March 2015, it was noted that upgrading from the minimum required standard of 30 minutes’ fire-resistance to 120 minutes’ would cost an extra £12,000, the inquiry heard on 10 March.
In an email chain between external wall subcontractor Harley Facades, lead contractor Rydon and architects Studio E, Rydon contracts manager Simon Lawrence writes: “Harley via their supply chain are questioning the rating of the cladding firebreaks.
“Apparently by going to 2hrs as we discussed has a cost increase of around £12k.”
Studio E design lead Neil Crawford agreed with the inquiry’s chief lawyer, Richard Millett QC, that there was pressure on site to avoid having to recommend the upgraded cavity barriers.
Millett asked him: “And the main concern was cost and delay as opposed to fire safety?”
Crawford, who led the architects’ design team but is not a registered architect, replied: “I can’t speak on behalf of the other participants in that conversation but you might read that into what they’ve written, yes.”
An expert report in 2018 found there were “missing and defective cavity barriers” in the final refurbishment and that horizontal cavity barriers had been incorrectly installed vertically.
The report by Dr Barbara Lane, commissioned by the inquiry, also found that windows in individual flats had no fire barriers encasing them and these openings were surrounded by combustible material.
“The assembly – taken together with the insulation material on the existing external wall, the missing and defective cavity barriers – became part of a successful combustion process”, she wrote.
Asked if he had considered the fire performance of the building’s decorative architectural “crown”, which was found to have helped the blaze spread, Crawford said he “just understood it to be more aluminium panels”.
Millett, questioning him about drawings he was asked to approve for the feature, said: “Did you give any thought to how a fire might be able to spread uninhibited … across the crown of this building in the absence of any cavity barriers either within the crown or at the top of the columns?”
Crawford replied: “In the absence of cavity barriers I would understand fire just to go straight out into the atmosphere.
“I don’t know what I thought at the time. I wasn’t noting everything I thought consciously at the time.”
Phase one of the inquiry found that the crown was “primarily responsible” for the fire’s horizontal spread, with the “melting and dripping of burning polyethylene” from it contributing to more fire.
A total of 72 people died in the June 2017 fire at the west London tower block. It was ignited by an electrical fault in a fridge-freezer.
Campaign group Grenfell United said in a statement: “1,000 days on we are a long way from truth and justice. Across the country people are living in death traps and promises for change are still being broken. But we remain dignified and 1,000 days on we are even stronger.
“We have won battles and overcome hurdles to make sure we cannot be ignored. And we will continue to work together, with our community, for as long as it takes to get truth, justice and change.
“Every day we carry 72 lives lost in our hearts. Thank you for standing with us.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?