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Kingspan Insulation and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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19th February 2021

Actions taken in response to issues arising from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Introduction

Kingspan is today outlining the actions it has taken and is taking in response to a number of serious issues arising out of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry process (‘the Inquiry’).
 
These issues relate to unacceptable employee conduct at its UK insulation boards business, and historical process shortcomings by this business.

Kingspan apologises unreservedly once again for these shortcomings which are not consistent with its values or its commitment to conduct its business to the highest safety standards.

The actions outlined below are designed to address these legacy issues, complemented by Group-wide governance and continuous improvement initiatives to ensure that these issues can never be repeated.
 
Kingspan and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry
 
Kingspan had no role in the design of the cladding system used on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation used. It was used without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the buildings regulations and was unsafe.

In its Phase 1 Report the Inquiry has stated that the ‘principal reason’ for the rapid flame spread on the tower was the polyethylene cored (PE) ACM cladding material which was neither manufactured nor supplied by Kingspan, and would never be compliant for use in a system combined with K15. Furthermore, large scale testing undertaken by the UK Government since the fire concluded that any cladding system using the PE-cored ACM installed on Grenfell Tower would have been unsafe, regardless of insulation type.

Notwithstanding this, the Inquiry process has highlighted historical behaviours that have rightly been criticised, and today Kingspan is updating on extensive actions taken and underway to underpin its clear commitment to proper professional conduct and safety.
 
Gene Murtagh, Chief Executive of Kingspan commented:
“The unacceptable conduct and historical process shortcomings, involving a small number of employees in our UK insulation boards business, do not reflect the high standards of integrity and safety that are core Kingspan values, deeply held by our people.
We have already implemented several important changes that demonstrate our commitment to product compliance and good governance. Our aims are clear: to reassure that safety takes precedence over all other considerations and to ensure this can never happen again.”
 
Update on actions taken
 
The actions taken, and underway, by Kingspan include:
  • Compliance and governance review: Law firm Eversheds Sutherland has conducted a rigorous review of Kingspan’s UK insulation boards business to ascertain how the issues occurred, what changes have been made by the business, and what further actions should be taken. Kingspan is committed to implementing in full the recommendations made, and this work is already underway. A summary of the Eversheds Sutherland report recommendations can be found below.
  • Wide-ranging process changes to date: Substantial changes made to date in Kingspan’s UK insulation boards business include new fire testing and accreditation protocols, publication of all BS 8414 test reports (pass and fail) and the introduction of a new Marketing Integrity Manual is underway. Kingspan is also fully engaged in several industry initiatives to generate systemic changes in the UK construction industry consistent with the recommendations made in the Hackitt Review. These include Kingspan’s full support for the planned new Construction Products Regulator, and the Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) that is due to be introduced later this year.
  • Governance and management changes: Kingspan has introduced management and governance changes to strengthen its approach to product safety and compliance. These include the recent appointment of a Group Head of Compliance & Certification reporting directly to the Group CEO; changes to divisional and UK senior management in the Insulation Boards business; the appointment of Product Compliance Officers in every business division across the Group; extending the role of the Board Audit Sub-Committee into an Audit & Compliance Sub-Committee; expanding the Group Internal Auditing function to incorporate product compliance; and a commitment to achieve the incoming ISO 37301 certification across its major facilities.
  • Code of conduct: Kingspan has introduced a new code of conduct based on three core principles of integrity, honesty and compliance, and the rollout of a training programme on the contents to all its staff is underway. The Code of Conduct includes strengthened “Speak Out” arrangements provided by an independent third party, and features enhanced investigation processes, and a multi-lingual, 24/7 confidential phone line.
  • Integrity and traceability of product information: Kingspan has commenced the implementation of a groupwide Product Information Management (PIM) infrastructure to ensure accuracy of all product information, including that which is related to compliance. The PIM will provide accurate and up-to-date product information to a suite of customer tools in order to support the golden thread of product information through the building lifecycle. The PIM project has been underway since 2019 and the prototype BIMDesigner platform was launched in the UK in 2020.
  • Reassurance and engagement on legacy testing issues: Kingspan has retested the three BS 8414 tests it withdrew and validated the original claims using current K15. Kingspan is engaged with the appropriate stakeholders on matters relevant to all K15 legacy marketing and testing issues on an ongoing basis. Kingspan has reviewed the remainder of its Kooltherm range and has not identified issues of either safety or materiality.
  • Action on legacy projects: Kingspan now holds fifteen successful BS 8414 tests using current K15 which provide support for its safe use in compliant systems. When K15 was recommended in a system by Kingspan for use in a particular building, and the existing suite of BS 8414 tests does not support that use, then Kingspan is fully committed to acting swiftly to evaluate what action is required, and to providing remediation as appropriate. Kingspan is already actively providing support on legacy projects.
  • Fire Safety Research & Development: In order to support research and development with respect to fire performance of products, prior to independent third-party testing, Kingspan has invested in a new Fire Test Centre in North Wales. It is intended that this centre, which will be one of Europe’s most advanced fire testing facilities, will be made available to the wider industry for research purposes.

Safety of K15 within compliant systems
 
Kingspan has engaged in a very extensive testing and review process and has full confidence in the safety of K15 when used in a compliant system that has successfully been tested to the BS 8414 standard.
 
As explained above, Kingspan has completed fifteen BS 8414 large-scale system fire tests using cladding systems incorporating current K15 that have successfully met the relevant criteria set by BR 135. The testing and review process includes repeating the three withdrawn tests and validating the original claims with current K15.

This extensive testing programme, which is ongoing, supports the retention of K15 in existing cladding systems on high rise buildings which meet current UK Government guidance where:
  • the system is correctly installed and has passed a full-scale BS 8414 fire test; or
  • there is a technically robust desktop study in place based on accurate test data; or
  • a fire engineering assessment was completed on the building on which the system was installed.

Eversheds Sutherland Review Recommendations

Eversheds Sutherland Review Recommendations

16th December 2020

Kingspan condemns any actions that do not demonstrate a proper commitment to fire safety.
 
The Inquiry has highlighted historic process shortcomings and unacceptable conduct within a part of our UK Insulation business, for which we have apologised unreservedly and which we are treating with the utmost seriousness. 
 
These matters do not reflect the organisation that we are or aspire to be, and significant actions have been taken and are in progress, that further underpin our commitment to fire safety and to professional conduct. We continue to support the Inquiry in its work and are determined to learn all necessary lessons.

5th November 2020


K15 on Grenfell Tower

Kingspan Insulation wishes to express its deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the tragic events which occurred at Grenfell Tower.

Kingspan Insulation had no role in the design or planning of the cladding system at Grenfell Tower, and provided no advice to those working on Grenfell Tower around the suitability of K15 for use in the installed cladding system.

K15 constituted 5.2% of the rainscreen insulation boards ordered for use on Grenfell Tower, and Kingspan Insulation had no knowledge that its product was being used until after the fire. The system used on Grenfell Tower was not compliant with Building Regulations, was unsafe, and should not have been used.

Large scale testing undertaken since the fire has indicated that any cladding system using the PE-cored ACM installed on Grenfell Tower would have been unsafe, regardless of insulation type. Modelling conducted since the fire by independent fire experts Efectis also supports this view.

Testing and marketing review

Kingspan Insulation has reviewed its testing and marketing of K15 and identified process shortcomings, particularly in the way certain tests of cladding systems undertaken in 2005 and 2014 were conducted and were relied upon for the marketing of K15. These shortcomings fell short of the high standards which Kingspan sets itself.

The company has now carried out extensive testing and re-testing which validates, for current K15, the BS 8414 performance claims made previously.

Although Kingspan Insulation is confident that K15 was, and is, safe for use within compliant cladding systems, these historical shortcomings should not have happened and we offer a full and sincere apology for them, and an assurance that we have made substantial changes to ensure they cannot be repeated.

Changes introduced to date include full traceability of K15, publication of all BS 8414 test reports incorporating current K15, new fire testing and accreditation protocols, and a new employee code of conduct.

We are committed to the highest standards of fire performance in our products through continuous R&D and rigorous testing, complemented by technical support and accurate product information.

Kingspan Insulation will continue to support the Inquiry’s important work to understand what happened at Grenfell, and to prevent any future tragedies of this nature. In addition, we are determined to learn all necessary lessons from the discovery of the historical shortcomings outlined above to ensure that they can never happen again.

Clarifications

22nd January 2021

Kingspan corrects misunderstanding arising from Inquiry evidence on 9th December 2020

Kingspan would like to explain and correct a misunderstanding that arose at Inquiry on 9th December 2020 when it was stated that “Kingspan was engaged in a wholesale attempt to mislead Clive Betts and the Select Committee”.

Kingspan has written to the Inquiry and to MHCLG to correct this misunderstanding. The letter MHCLG can be viewed here.

In its questioning, the Inquiry referred to emails relating to a different test (conducted in May 2018) to the one which was shared with the Select Committee (conducted in July 2018).

The July 2018 test illustrated the very important public safety points that Kingspan was making to the Select Committee, namely that large-scale testing of the whole cladding system is the best way to determine the fire safety of the system, and that the current regulatory regime permits the construction of cladding systems which would fail a large-scale fire safety test despite their using only non-combustible and limited combustibility insulation and cladding materials.

Regardless of the fact that the May 2018 test was not shared with the Select Committee, Kingspan also rejects any suggestion that the May 2018 test was “gamed” or “manipulated”.

The intention was to test a system which might realistically be specified to be used on a building in the UK in accordance with the linear route to compliance, but which nevertheless contained design “imperfections”, which might be seen in practice and lead to a less robust fire performance than an optimally designed system. 

The tested system passed (i.e., it met the BR 135 criteria) and was not shared with the Select Committee, because it was not relevant as it did not illustrate the public safety point that Kingspan was seeking to explain.

It is not in doubt that some systems comprising only A1/A2 cladding and insulation materials will meet BR 135 requirements when tested to BS 8414. The point is that not all such systems will meet those requirements.
 

 

Kingspan Insulation's Grenfell Tower Inquiry Opening Statement

Kingspan Insulation Opening Statement - 5th November 2020

Kingspan Insulation Oral Statement - 5th November 2020

Kingspan Insulation and Grenfell Tower - Questions & Answers

K15 appears to have been used on two occasions as a substitute for the insulation that was specified for use on the Tower (Celotex RS5000). K15 constituted 5.2% (by area) of the rainscreen insulation boards ordered for use on the spandrel beams and columns of Grenfell Tower. Kingspan Insulation did not know K15 was on Grenfell Tower and had never recommended a system that incorporated K15 with PE-cored ACM cladding for this or any building.

No they did not. Kingspan Insulation’s marketing literature and standard advice at the time clearly explained that K15 was neither non-combustible nor of limited combustibility, and did not suggest that it could be used with PE-cored ACM cladding.

K15 is a high-performance insulation product whose safe use within compliant cladding systems has been supported by extensive BS8414 large-scale system tests. We believe that cladding systems that incorporate K15, and that have been successfully tested to BS8414, are safe for use on buildings over 18 metres where permitted, for example offices. We recognise that K15’s use is currently not permitted on residential buildings over 18 metres under English and Welsh building regulations. Systems incorporating K15 can continue to be used safely in a wide range of other applications on buildings below 18 metres, if used in compliance with the relevant Building Regulations / Standards.

We do not believe it would have.

In its Phase 1 report the Inquiry found that “the principal reason why the flames spread so rapidly up the building was the presence of the ACM panels with polyethylene cores”. The Inquiry is still trying to quantify the contribution of the insulation to the fire spread.

Kingspan’s view is that large scale testing undertaken since the fire has indicated that any cladding system using the PE-cored ACM installed on Grenfell Tower would have been unsafe, regardless of insulation type. In addition, independent and peer reviewed modelling undertaken by independent fire experts Efectis indicates that given the PE-cored ACM cladding used, the course of the fire at Grenfell Tower would have been the same regardless of whether combustible insulation (PIR) or non-combustible insulation (synthetic mineral fibre) was used.

Kingspan Insulation has reviewed its testing and marketing of K15 and identified process shortcomings, particularly in the way certain tests of cladding systems undertaken in 2005 and 2014 were conducted and were relied upon for the marketing of K15. These shortcomings fell short of the high standards which Kingspan sets itself.

Although Kingspan Insulation is confident that K15 was, and is, safe for use within compliant cladding systems, these historical shortcomings should not have happened and we offer a full and sincere apology for them, and an assurance that we have made substantial changes to ensure they cannot be repeated.

Kingspan has invested significant resource and time to introduce wide ranging improved processes and procedures to ensure the safety and correct classification of its products. Changes introduced to date include full traceability of K15, publication of all BS 8414 test reports incorporating standard K15, and new fire testing and accreditation protocols. The accreditation protocols ensure that any new 3rd party certification, or amendments to existing certificates are fully reflected in any product changes.

Kingspan has also issued an updated Code of Conduct which sets out the company’s high expectations as to the accuracy of all business communications, especially in respect of product information and promotion. The code encourages a "speak out" culture in which employees are expected to voice any concerns or queries.

Kingspan has introduced a new “Kingspan Assured” initiative which provides a centralised online repository of information around four key information pillars: Roles & Responsibilities, Regulation & Guidance, Quality Assurance, and Competence. You can find more information about Kingspan Assured here. Please also email any queries you have to inquiry.support@kingspan.com.
 

K15 - Questions & Answers

Kingspan Kooltherm K15 Rainscreen Board is an insulation board for use within rainscreen and masonry façade systems. It features a rigid thermoset phenolic insulation core bonded to low emissivity foil facings.  
All product performance claims made in the current versions of marketing literature for K15, and those made on our website, have been fully verified. They can be found here.
 
A total of 15 BS 8414 tests using cladding systems incorporating current K15 have successfully met the relevant criteria set by BR 135. They can be found at:  https://www.kingspan.com/gb/en-gb/fire-safety/kingspan-bs-8414-tested-systems
 
However, Kingspan has carried out a detailed review of all past and current test data which relates to K15, including BS 8414 tests. In February 2019 we concluded that three BS 8414 tests carried out in 2005 and 2014 featured product which was not sufficiently representative of the product as currently sold. These reports were removed from the Kingspan website and our product literature in March 2019.

In two of these cases, Kingspan has either undertaken, or we already had, further successful BS8414 testing of similar systems, using K15 as currently sold. In the third case further testing has shown that the historical performance claim is valid for current K15.
 
Our extensive testing and re-testing gives us confidence that systems incorporating current K15 can continue to be used safely, if used in compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.
 
The withdrawal of these three BS 8414 tests led to the suspension of K15’s BBA and LABC certification. On November 24, the BBA issued a new Product Sheet for K15 thereby re-establishing its BBA certification. The Product Sheet can be viewed here.
 
In addition, at the time of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, K15’s Euroclass rating was C-s1,d0. However, our most recent testing has shown that the product is now C-s2,d0. This rating is reflected in our current product and marketing information. This change in classification does not invalidate the 15 successful BS8414 tests mentioned above.

No. The 2007 and 2008 tests were not intended to replace or replicate the 2005 test and were based on  very different façade constructions. We believe the results were attributable to the substantial differences in the systems.

It is important to emphasise that a large-scale fire test such as BS 8414 is a test of the entire cladding system, and not K15 in isolation.  Thus a failed BS 8414 test means that the cladding system as a whole has failed, and does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with the insulation.  The 2007 and 2008 tests are  examples of this, and whilst certain individuals at Kingspan Insulation were naturally concerned about the failure and expressed their concerns in emails, the result is not indicative of K15’s use being unsafe within a compliant system.

What has received less attention is the fact that a very similar, if not identical, cladding system to that used in the 2007 test was tested shortly afterwards using non-combustible synthetic mineral fibre insulation instead of K15, and it also failed. These failed tests demonstrate that the BS 8414 system was working robustly in identifying that some cladding systems were not capable of passing the test - regardless of the type of insulation used behind them.

Kingspan Insulation conducted a further BS 8414-1 test designed to replicate (as closely as possible given product availability) the system tested in the 2005 BS 8414 Test but using current K15.  This test has supported and validated the historical performance claim for current K15. Kingspan Insulation is confident that compliant cladding systems that incorporate K15 are safe.

Furthermore, there are now a total of 15 systems incorporating current K15 that have met the requirements of BR 135, including 8 systems tested to BS 8414-2 (the test method for non-loadbearing external cladding systems fixed to, and supported by, a structural steel frame). The 2007/2008 tests referenced above were BS 8414-2 tests. 

Yes, a number of specific assemblies featuring K15  met the requirements of BR 135 when tested to the BS 8414 large-scale system test. A complete list of these assemblies is provided here.

K15 could be used if it: was part of a BR 135 compliant system if the specific system had been successfully tested to BS 8414; was the subject of a specific desktop study opining that the proposed system would satisfy the BR 135 criteria if tested; or had been subject to a whole building fire engineering assessment. K15’s use could not be compliant by way of the linear route to compliance. It is clear that none of these 4 routes to compliance were followed by those responsible for the design of the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

A total of 15 BS 8414 tests using cladding systems incorporating standard K15 have successfully met the relevant criteria set by BR 135.

Control of the fire safety regulations is devolved to the countries of the UK. The relevant guidance for each region is shown below:

England –Approved Document B Volumes 1 & 2
 
Scotland –Building Standards Technical Handbooks 2019 Section 2
 
Wales –Amendment to Approved Document B Volume 2
 
Learn more about the latest updates to the fire safety regulations regarding cladding.

K15 is certified for use by the BBA and the applicable BBA Certificate Product Sheet can be viewed here. The BBA issued a new Product Sheet for K15 on 24 November 2020 thereby re-establishing its BBA certification. This follows its suspension of Certification on November 4 2020 after Kingspan’s withdrawal of three BS 8414 tests.