£2 cheaper per square metre

The Guardian on that cheaper and more inflammable cladding chosen for the renovation of Grenfell Tower.

Material used in the cladding that covered the Grenfell Tower was the cheaper, more flammable version of the two available options, an investigation of the supply chain has confirmed.

Omnis Exteriors manufactured the aluminium composite material (ACM) used in the cladding, a company director, John Cowley, confirmed to the Guardian.

He also said Omnis had been asked to supply Reynobond PE cladding, which is £2 cheaper per square metre than the alternative Reynobond FR, which stands for “fire resistant” to the companies that worked on refurbishing Grenfell Tower.

But maybe that’s just normal? Everybody does it?


German construction companies have been banned from using plastic-filled cladding, such as Reynobond PE, on towers more than 22 metres high since the 1980s when regulations were brought in to improve fire safety at residential blocks.

Why 22 metres? Because of the ladders on fire trucks.

Concerns that the panels could exacerbate the spread of fires led authorities to allow them only on buildings that can be reached by the fire brigade using fully-extended ladders from the ground. Taller buildings require panels with a more fire-resistant core and separate staircases for people to use if evacuation becomes necessary.

Frankfurt’s fire chief, Reinhard Ries, said he was appalled at the fire at Grenfell Tower and said tighter fire-safety rules for tower blocks in Germany meant that a similar incident could not happen there. US building codes also restrict the use of metal-composite panels without flame-retardant cores on buildings above 15 metres.

Now we have a very vivid demonstration of why.

In the UK there are no regulations requiring the use of fire-retardant material in cladding used on the exterior of tower blocks and schools. But the Fire Protection Association (FPA), an industry body, has been pushing for years for the government to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities and companies to use only fire-retardant material. Jim Glocking, technical director of the FPA, said it had “lobbied long and hard” for building regulations on the issue to be tightened, but nothing had happened.

Seraphima Kennedy had nightmares about it.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, a harsh light now shines on the organisation that managed the block, and others in the area, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

People have said that this was “a disaster waiting to happen”. I shared their concerns. I saw them from the inside.

I remember the vote that led to the creation of KCTMO in 1996, because my mother was a tenant at the time and we received letters about it. I was born and brought up in the south of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on benefits, in an overcrowded council flat.

She went to university and went to work for the KCTMO.

Though I didn’t manage Grenfell Tower itself, I was responsible for day-to-day housing management services on surrounding estates with similar structures and communities. The policies and procedures were, to my knowledge, the same, and these included mandatory annual fire safety training for caretakers and neighbourhood officers. In this training, the stakes of failure were made very clear; we were told that the CEO could go to prison for corporate manslaughter in the event of a major incident. We were also told about some of the recommendations from the Lakanal House fire in 2009, which claimed six lives in Southwark, south London.

But austerity steadily drained away their resources.

Our foreboding about calamity loomed large; I used to have nightmares about blocks burning down. We carried out quarterly block inspections, and a huge part of that work was checking the fire-safety of each block. Were the exits clear? Were the emergency lights working? Were all the fire doors in operation? We’d send letters to residents who left bikes and buggies blocking the communal exits, because it was our responsibility to make sure the means of escape were clear. But still I’d wake up in the middle of the night, asking myself if I’d sent that letter to that resident in flat 17 asking her to move her buggy. Buggies are highly flammable and it only takes one cigarette to start a fire.

When I heard how residents in Grenfell stayed put, I remembered one meeting with the residents on another of our estates who asked for information about their means of escape in the event of a fire. I was flabbergasted when our fire safety team confirmed the widely used “stay put” policy, confident in the belief that fire stops between each floor would prevent the flames from spreading, and that the fire doors fitted to every home in their block would give residents a full hour in which the fire brigade would rescue them. Thinking about it now brings a lump to my throat.

£2 cheaper per square metre.

H/t Gita Sahgal

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