Why was Grenfell insulation supplied at 50% discount?

23 September 2020

Contractors working on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower were sold insulation not known for use on high-rise buildings for almost a 50% discount, an inquiry has heard. 

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry was told that the refurbishment of the tower using RS5000 foam panels was considered a “case study” by manufacturer Celotex. 

The insulation that burnt and released toxic gases in the blaze contributed to the deaths of 72 people in June 2017.

Emails shown as evidence in the inquiry revealed that on 17 March 2015 there was supply and delivery of 660 panels with a price of £132.19 each. A discount of 47.5% brought the total price for the insulation down to around £45,803.

Richard Millett, lead counsel for the inquiry, questioned Ben Bailey – the project manager at Harley Facades who was responsible for buying the insulation – about the “hefty discount” applied by Celotex. 

Bailey told the inquiry: “It’s not unusual, in my experience of ordering stuff [...] that large orders get a discount without even asking.”

The inquiry was shown an appointment note from Celotex’s Jonathan Roome to Bailey that referred to the use of the insulation as a “potential case study”. 

Bailey said he knew the insulation “hadn’t been used widely before” on high-rise buildings, but he was “unsure” on whether Grenfell had been the first to use the new insulation. 

However, when Millett asked whether he felt the tower was being used as a “guinea pig”, Bailey said it was “not a thought that crossed my mind”. 

The inquiry heard that RS5000 material had differed from the material specified by the architects on the project and Harley had a contractual obligation with Rydon to only change materials with its consent. Bailey said he was not aware of that clause. 

Bailey, who is the son of Harley's managing director Ray Bailey, was made project manager of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment despite having not managed a project from start to finish before. 

When questioned on whether he’d received any qualifications in relation to fire safety in the construction of buildings as part of his role, Bailey said no. 

Earlier this month, the inquiry was told how potential cost savings and miscalculated budgets had contributed to the decision to use combustible cladding in Grenfell’s refurbishment.

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