Grenfell Tower intended as case study for new type of insulation, inquiry hears

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Renovators wanted to use Grenfell Tower as a “case study” for a new type of insulation, which later turned out to be combustible, an inquiry has heard.

Ben Bailey, project manager at the west London block for external wall fitters and cladding specialists Harley Facades, confirmed to the hearing the idea of using the 24-storey building as a “case study” for Celotex’s RS5000 material was discussed.

A note about a meeting between Mr Bailey and Celotex’s Jonathan Roome in April 2015 was read to the inquiry on Monday and said: “Met Ben in the office to discuss progress on Grenfell Tower.

“Rydon’s are the MC (main contractor) and although they have started to take (RS5000 insulation), they have not actually started installing.

“Discussed the potential to use as a case study and Ben is happy.”

The note added: “Thinks that Rydon’s will get on board also.”

Mr Bailey said he could not recall that specific conversation but admitted that idea was discussed at points during the renovation, adding: “There’s correspondence later in the year – whilst it’s not directly from Celotex – about a case study, yes.”

Asked what he thought was meant by the idea of Grenfell as a “case study”, Mr Bailey said of Celotex “being an insulation supplier they might be interested in what U-value was achieved with their product.”

The U-value is a way of measuring energy efficiency.

Mr Bailey knew the insulation “hadn’t been used widely before” but could not recall whether Grenfell was the first high-rise RS5000 was used on.

Monday’s hearing also revealed the Celotex material was sold to Harley at a 47.5% discount.

Mr Bailey denied the cost had anything to do with the product’s selection but other documents showed that Harley staff were also enquiring as to the price of a Kingspan K15 insulation.

The Kingspan – which was not specified on the Grenfell plans but was partly used in the renovation for a period when Celotex was hard to get hold of – was only offered at a discount of around 26%.

Mr Bailey told the room: “Large orders get a discount without even asking.”

In January, Stephanie Barwise QC, lawyer for one group of victims and survivors, told the inquiry Celotex treated the 67-metre tall building as a “flagship” project for its RS5000 insulation and exploited what one of its bosses called “the smoke of confusion” around building regulations.

The blaze at the tower in June 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people.

It previously emerged that Mr Bailey was appointed by his father, Ray Bailey, director of Harley Facades, to the Grenfell project when he was just 25.

The move was described by the Fire Brigades Union as “shameless nepotism” that is “symptomatic of a system that is rotten to the core”.

Ray Bailey defended the appointment by saying his son had worked with the company during holidays at university and had recently managed a project at Merit House in Colindale, north-west London, “the value of which was probably double that of Grenfell”.

The inquiry continues and Mr Bailey, now 30, will return to give evidence on Tuesday.