Grenfell: ‘No recollection’ that BRE followed up on ‘inaccurate’ LABC certificate for Kingspan K15

Stephen Howard

A BRE director does not recall the organisation following up on a “wholly inaccurate” certificate issued by Herefordshire LABC that gave automatic acceptance for cladding systems employing Kingspan’s combustible K15 insulation on buildings over 18m in height.

Stephen Howard, director of fire testing and certification at BRE, was asked during yesterday’s Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearing (1 March) about a 2009 email exchange in which John Raybould told Howard and his BRE colleagues Sarah Colwell and Tony Baker: “I have managed to get an LABC certificate from Hertfordshire [sic] that says the Kingspan K15 insulation can be used in a mixture of insulation thickness, masonry or steel-framed substrates, a min cavity gap of 50mm with a range of rainscreen claddings…Also note that this appears to give automatic acceptance for [systems] over 18m.”

The certificate said that K15, a quantity of which was used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, had been tested in accordance with BS8414-1 and a pair of BS 476 tests. It read: “From the results, it can be considered as a material of limited combustibility and meets the criteria for Class 0 classification for surface spread of flame.”

But as Howard agreed during the hearing, the statement was “inaccurate” because the fact that it had passed a BS 8414 test did not mean that it was a material of limited combustibility.

After receiving Raybould’s email, Colwell sent a message to Howard and BRE director Dr Debbie Smith, in which she attached the LABC system approval certificate, and said: “We need to discuss this urgently.”

But Howard said he could not recall a discussion. He said: “If there was a meeting that was addressed from Sarah to myself and Debbie Smith, then, by inference, I would guess there was a meeting on that subject, but I can’t recall it.”

He said he could not recall what the urgency that Colwell referred to was, although asked if he remembered being concerned that Kingspan had managed to obtain an LABC certificate that gave automatic approvals for use of Kingspan Kooltherm K15 for use over 18m, he said: “I think there was concern. I can imagine there would be concern, but it would depend on the basis on which that certificate was issued.”

However, he said that he couldn’t recall any action being taken after Colwell’s email.

Lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett asked Howard: “Did it occur to you at the time when you read this certificate, to the best of your recollection…that as a result of these three tests K15 could be considered as a material of limited combustibility, was dangerously untrue?”

Howard said: “I can’t remember reading the document but if presented with that now, then, yes, it’s untrue. It’s not representative of the product.”

Millett said that the Inquiry had seen no documents which showed that the BRE ever took the inaccuracy of the statement up with either LABC or Kingspan.

Howard said: “If we’d seen that documentation, I would have thought there would have been a formal response out of BRE on that point.”

The Inquiry continues.

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