Grenfell: Arconic regarded stopped cassette cladding test as ‘rogue result’

Claude Schmidt

Arconic regarded the stoppage of a test on its Reynobond 55 PE cladding in cassette variant – the type used on Grenfell Tower – in a 2005 European fire test as a “rogue result”, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Arconic advertised and sold Reynobond PE as a Euroclass B product for several years after 2005. But while the product in rivet format had obtained a Euroclass B, the fire test on the same product in cassette variant had to be stopped after 850 seconds and as a result it had no classification.

Giving evidence to the Inquiry yesterday (16 February) through an interpreter, France-based Arconic managing director Claude Schmidt, said that he had not been informed of this fact when he took over in 2007.

Lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett asked Schmidt: “How can you account or explain why nobody in the teams who knew about test 5B informed you of the fact?”

Schmidt replied: “I don’t think anyone really believed in the tests that took place in 2005.”

Evidence from Schmidt’s colleague Claude Wehrle, which was read out during the hearing, explained that during the 2005 tests, the company had expected the cladding in cassette variant to perform better than in rivet format. Wehrle said: “Test in a rivet system produced a B result, whereas testing in a cassette system did not, and indeed the indication was given that the result might be poorer. Nonetheless we felt able to conclude that the product, ie the RB55 PE, had been shown capable, as part of a suitable system, of achieving EN Class B, and we felt we could proceed on this basis.”

Wehrle said he and his colleagues “struggled” to understand why the cassette variant, whose test had to be stopped after 850 seconds, had achieved such a result. He said: “No one really understood it. It was not seen as a key issue or priority at the time and the role generally assumed by the technical team was to inform and educate the management team. As the company had no reason to suspect this was anything other than a rogue result of a standard classification test, and given the general view that the cassette variant would perform better than the rivet type due to fewer exposed edges, the marketing team, the technical team and management decided at the time that a classification in category B was satisfactory for aluminium composite material with a PE core.”

Schmidt said he did not know why Arconic did not conduct another test on Reynobond 55 PE in cassette variant after the failed 2005 test.

When the cladding was tested in cassette format in 2010, it achieved a Euroclass E.

‘False statement’ in UK market

Schmidt agreed that the BBA certificate for the product, used in the UK market, did not distinguish between the rivet and cassette variants in terms of fire classification. He also agreed that the BBA certificate presented both the rivet and cassette-fix variants of Reynobond 55 PE as class B for specific colours.

Schmidt also said that he thought “that in the years 2014 to 2016, clients were informed” of the Euroclass E result for the cassette variant.

Nonetheless, he agreed that even between 2014 and 2016, the BBA certificate used by Arconic to sell Reynobond 55 PE in the UK drew no distinction between the rivet and cassette fix variants and presented both as having Euroclass B.

Schmidt accepted that this was a “false statement” as far as the cassette fix was concerned but could not say why it had been made. He said: “That was the responsibility of the technical service and I don’t know, again, why that was not communicated correctly.”

The Inquiry continues.

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