Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Grenfell: Harley preferred ACM cladding cassettes after estimating error

15 September 2020
Mike Albiston

Harley Curtain Wall had a preference to install cassette-fixed ACM cladding panels on Grenfell Tower after an estimating error meant that it would have faced bigger financial shortfalls if a different option were chosen, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Mike Albiston, who joined Harley Curtain Wall as an estimator in October 2013, appeared as a witness before the Inquiry yesterday (14 September).

Albiston admitted that he was “horrified” to have made an error while costing different cladding options for the tower, after he forgot to include items for face-fix ACM panels, including flashings, smoke stops and supports for the crown. The estimate for the cost of zinc cladding, which was architect Studio E’s preferred option, included the cost of those items.

Because of the error, the saving Harley was able to offer main contractor Rydon for face-fixed Reynobond PE panels was only around £376,000 as opposed to the £576,000 it had originally quoted. When it came to cassette-fixed panels, the new savings would have been £259,000, rather than £419,000.

In a June 2014 email, Albiston explained to Rydon commercial manager Zak Maynard, with Harley commercial manager Mark Harris copied in, that “the shortfall of both face fix and cassette is £200,380. But as explained in my previous email, the cost used for cassette was more accurate than face fix, which was a bit low. This would result in an additional shortfall to Harley of around £38,750 if face fix was selected.”

Albiston admitted in yesterday’s hearing that from Harley’s financial perspective, a cassette fix was a better option.

Later, in a May 2014 email from Harris to former Rydon contracts manager Simon Lawrence, Harris said that Harley’s preference “would be cassette for lots of reasons!!”.

Asked what the reasons were that Harris was referring to, Albiston said it “possibly would have been because of the cost difference”.

He was also asked if he was aware at the time that Reynobond PE 55 in a cassette format was significantly more combustible compared with a riveted format. Albiston replied that he did not. Both configurations of cladding – cassette and riveted – ended up being fitted at Grenfell Tower.

Earlier in the hearing, Albiston explained that he had not received any training when he arrived at Harley, and that he costed what he was told to cost, rather than making any selection of alternative products.

He also confirmed that he did not receive any training or CPD to assist with his role, nor that he undertook any training himself to keep up to date with Building Regulations, statutory industry guidance, or best practice within the façade industry.

Asked about checking the fire performance of products, he said that this was not his role and would have been down to technical manager Daniel Anketell-Jones or director Ray Bailey.

The Inquiry continues.


As an estimator your supposed to know and understand the build regs as well as the product specification,it’s construction and fixing methods for costings/estimating purposes it’s the job inculding fire ratings.Having said that I’ve experienced this man’s dilemma too many time within our indusry,nobody likes it if you raise issues.The Industry as a whole has lost control of itself.Over a orked,under trained,poor work life balance.

W.F.Truman, 19 September 2020

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