Grenfell: Kingspan executive knew of insulation change four years before test withdrawn
Insulation manufacturer Kingspan was aware that a 2005 fire test for its K15 insulation, a quantity of which was used at Grenfell Tower, was based upon an older product for four years before it asked the BRE to withdrew the test report, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.
Adrian Pargeter, now director of technical, marketing and regulatory affairs for Kingspan Great Britain, told the Inquiry that he became aware in 2016 that a 2005 BS 8414-1 test used K15 that had been produced using an old chemical process. The process was subsequently altered in 2006.
Despite being aware of the test using an older version of K15 than the one that was subsequently sold on the basis of the BS 8414-1 test, Pargeter said he did not become concerned by this until later.
Kingspan removed the 2005 test from its own website in March 2019 and in October 2020 wrote to the BRE to ask that the 2005 test be withdrawn. It has since commissioned another BS 8414 test for K15, which it passed in February 2020.
Lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett QC asked Pargeter: “You say that it was as a result of the Grenfell Inquiry and your subsequent investigations that you became concerned, as you say, that the BS 8414 tests referenced in Kingspan’s marketing literature for K15 may have used non-standard K15 in the test, but you don’t say there that you had known that fact, at least as a basic fact, in 2016, do you?”
Pargeter replied: “I do say that elsewhere in my witness statements…I think maybe the word “concerned” is the key word there. When I became aware of it in 2016, I wasn’t concerned about it. I understood what it was, I thought I understood what it was, and I wasn’t concerned by it.”
No concerns about fire performance
Millett asked Pargeter why he continued to allow K15 to be sold on the basis of the 2005 BS 8414-1 test until 2020 when he knew it might not have represented the product being sold on the market.
Pargeter said: “I was advised by [colleague] Gwyn Davies that the performance in fire would not have been any different, so I didn’t have any concerns about its performance in fire, just that it was a processing change, and part of the process of development of the K15 product, so I wasn’t concerned by it. So that’s why I continued to rely on it.”
Millett asked: “Other than removing the 2005 test report from Kingspan’s own website, did you actually do anything in 2016, or after 2016 until March 2019, to have the test report removed from circulation or withdrawn?”
Pargeter said: “No, I didn’t.”
Millett continued: “Did you do anything in 2016 or after that year to investigate how it could be that for 11 years, perhaps 10 years or so, up to that point , K15 was being sold to the market which was not the same product as had been the subject of the 2005 test?”
Pargeter replied: “No, I didn’t, because…I assumed it was common knowledge within the organisation, it had been there for a long time, and people…had understood the changes a lot better than I during the process, so I didn’t take any further steps.”
Asked if he was concerned from June 2017, after the Grenfell Tower fire, that customers were still buying K15 on the basis of a test that was done on a different product, Pargeter said: “No, because I didn’t expect that there was any difference in the fire performance.”
Millett asked: “Did you actually seek to get to the bottom of that question and have it absolutely and thoroughly answered?”
Pargeter said: “We have as a team tried to do that as well, and we’re still…I’m still not convinced there is a large difference, any difference in fire performance from the 2005 product and the product that we’re producing today.”
Pargeter also told the inquiry that he did not take any steps to inform the market the K15 it was selling was not what had been tested in 2005. Asked why not, he said: “Because, like I say, I wasn’t concerned. I thought the fire performance was the same, and it was extensively the same product, it was just produced, you know, in a different method.”
He also confirmed that he was aware that from late 2016, Kingspan was still marketing K15 for compliant use above 18 metres on the basis of the 2005 test. But he denied that the literature was misleading. Pargeter said: “I don’t think it was misleading, certainly not deliberately. I’d checked it out, as far as I could at the time, and I was assured – reassured that the fire performance was the same.”
The Inquiry continues.