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Kingspan Insulation and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 2 Closing Statements – 14th September 2021

The Grenfell Tower fire was a tragedy that should never have happened, and Kingspan supports the vitally important work of the Inquiry to determine what went wrong and why.

Kingspan had no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation purchased for use. It was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the buildings regulations and was unsafe.

Kingspan strongly agrees with the Phase 1 Report of the Inquiry which stated that "the principal reason” 1 for rapid fire spread on Grenfell was the polyethylene cladding panels used.  Any considered review of the available evidence supports our position that the type of insulation used on the Tower made no material difference to the nature and speed of the spread of the fire.

Where questions have been raised about Kingspan's historical BS 8414 testing, the tests have all been repeated and provided evidence to support previous fire safety claims. Kingspan Insulation relies on each of its 14 successful BS 8414 tests to demonstrate why it is confident that K15 can safely be used and retained in appropriate cladding systems.2

Arising from the Inquiry process, Kingspan has identified and apologised for process and conduct shortcomings in its UK insulation business. Independent third-party reviews have informed Kingspan’s rapid and comprehensive response to implement measures to ensure that there could be no recurrence and to reinforce our fire safety focus. 3 These include significant process enhancements, an enhanced code of conduct, as well as traceability and supply chain integrity measures. 

The evidence to the Inquiry has shown, however, that none of these shortcomings were causative of the failures that led to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the evidence presented to the Inquiry is that large scale system testing is the most robust way of assessing the safety of cladding systems.

Kingspan’s closing statements can be found here (Module 1 and Module 2). Our oral statement delivered on 14th September 2021 be found here.
1 Phase 1 Report, para 2.13(b). https://assets.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/GTI%20-%20Phase%201%20full%20report%20-%20volume%204.pdf
2 At the time of the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, Approved Document B expressly permitted cladding systems that successfully passed a BS 8414 test on high rise residential buildings thereby recognising such systems to be safe.  The MHCLG guidance also explicitly allows the retention of correctly installed and maintained rainscreen cladding systems which have passed BS 8414 cf.Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings – Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, January 2020, paras 3.11, 3.16 to 3.19, and 4.20 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869532/Building_safety_advice_for_building_owners_including_fire_doors_January_2020.pdf and Kingspan Guidance Note of April 2021, Section 3 https://ks-kentico-prod-cdn-endpoint.azureedge.net/kingspan-live/inform/media/inquiry/k15-bs-8414-testing-and-technical-advice-april-6-2021.pdf?ext=.pdf
3 For detail on measures taken see Kingspan’s statement of 19th February 2021 https://inquiry.kingspan.com/

Kingspan Insulation's Grenfell Tower Inquiry Module One and Module Two Closing Submissions

Kingspan Insulation Module One Closing Submissions

Kingspan Insulation Module Two Closing Submissions

Eversheds Sutherland Review Recommendations

Eversheds Sutherland Review Recommendations

Updates & Clarifications

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

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.

Kingspan statement on 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 update on Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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.

Kingspan statement on the opening of Module 2 or Phase 2 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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.

Kingspan Insulation's Grenfell Tower Inquiry Opening Statement

Kingspan Insulation Opening Statement - 5th November 2020

Kingspan Insulation Oral Statement - 5th November 2020