‘No fire issues’ in 2012 Grenfell cladding plan

Plans put forward in 2012 to clad Grenfell Tower presented no “particular issues or problems” when it came to fire safety, according to a fire safety expert who worked on the project.

Dr Clare Barker, formerly principal fire engineer at consultant Exova, made the assertion during day 15 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which has resumed following the coronavirus lockdown.

Richard Millett QC, leading counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, probed Dr Barker on Exova’s role in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, as well asking her about the only project meeting she attended about Grenfell Tower, on 26 July 2012 in London.

Asked by Millett if at the time, she considered cladding the building would present any particular issues or problems with regard to fire safety, Dr Barker replied: “No, I didn’t.”

Millett also asked if there was a reason why Dr Barker did not suggest that advice on the specific cladding system should be included in the fire safety strategy. Dr Barker again replied: “No.”

And he asked Dr Barker if the question of the need for cavity barriers within the cladding should form part of the fire strategy discussed, to which she replied: “Not at that meeting.”

Scope of consultant’s works

Moving on to Exova’s fee proposal, Millett quoted to Dr Barker the scope of the consultant’s works. The proposal said: "This scope of works is based on the assumption that a detailed appraisal is not required of the structural fire protection to the loadbearing elements of structure or of the fire compartmentation within the building. However, if it should transpire during the site survey that such an appraisal is necessary, then the scope of works can be extended to cover this, subject to a separate fee agreement.”

He asked on what basis the assumption was made that an appraisal of the structural fire protection of the compartmentation was not necessary.

Dr Barker replied: “I would say it was assumed that, because the building was a concrete building, it possessed the necessary fire resistance, as well as because at the time that it was constructed it was required to be a building with two-hour fire resistance to the structural elements. As it says underneath about carrying out a site survey to do that appraisal, that wouldn’t be something that we could do.”

Hearings with evidence from employees and former employees of Exova are set to continue throughout this week.

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