KENSINGTON and Chelsea council turned down a proposal to clad Grenfell Tower in fire resistant material and instead opted for a cheaper option, allowing the tower to be clad in flammable material, experts have shown.
Construction company Leadbitter quoted the council £3.3m to fit fireproof cladding to the tower.
The council decided that £3.3m was too much to spend on the refurbishment and instead put the contract out to tender. Construction company Rydon gave a cheaper quote of £2.1m, but in doing so, their refurbishment included a cheaper cladding which was flammable.
In order to save £1.3m, Chelsea and Kensington council awarded the contract to Rydon.
Rydon fitted the combustible cladding. On June 14, 2017, when the Grenfell Tower Fire started, the fire rapidly spread up the side of the building as the cheap cladding caught alight resulting in the deaths of so many men, women and children. If the council had gone with the original quote and awarded the contract to construction company Leadbitter, which planned to use fireproof solid aluminium cladding, lives would have definitely been saved, fire safety experts said.
Grenfell United described the development as heartbreaking. ‘It is more news that tells us our loved ones would be alive today if different decisions had been taken and if the people in charge had put safety first,’ said Sandra Ruiz, who lost her niece in the fire. ‘We need the inquiry to get to the bottom of why plans for the refurbishment were changed and why, when the community raised concerns, they were ignored.’
Geoff Wilkinson, an independent fire safety expert, said that if the solid aluminium cladding had been used, it would have performed better in the fire. While Stephen Mackenzie, an independent fire safety consultant said: ‘There would have been little or no fire spread, so the lives lost at Grenfell may have been prevented.’
At least 300 other tall buildings in England are clad in similar systems to Grenfell and need to be reclad after they failed fire safety tests. To date the number of buildings which have been reclad you can count on the fingers of one hand.