Grenfell Tower fire: Cladding used on block 'was banned in US'

Reports suggest it would have cost £5,000 extra for contractors to apply a fire-resistant version of panelling to tower block

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The Independent Online

Cladding believed to have been used on Grenfell Tower is banned in the US, it has emerged, amid revelations that it would have cost just £5,000 extra for the contractors to apply a fire-resistant version of panelling to the building.

Speculation is growing about the construction of the tower after a blaze ripped through it "like a matchstick" in the early hours of Wednesday morning, killing at least 17 people died and injuring scores more. 

It has now emerged that the aluminium panels thought to have been added to the outside of the block as part of a £10 million refurbishment completed in May 2016 are banned in the US on buildings taller than 40 feet for fire safety reasons.

The panels believed to have been fitted to the outside of Grenfell Tower are produced by US company Reynobond, which makes three types of panel: one with a flammable plastic core and two with fire-resistant cores. 

It is thought that contractors chose the cheaper, more combustible version for Grenfell, which has a polyethylene core and is known as PE.

A salesman for the US company Reynobond, which produces the panels, told The Times the type of panel believed to have been used on Grenfell Tower was banned on tall buildings in the US “because of the fire and smoke spread”.

He said the PE version is used for small commercial buildings and petrol stations, rather than for tower blocks or major public buildings such as hospitals, adding: “It’s because of the fire and smoke spread. The FR [variant] is fire-resistant. The PE is just plastic."

The Independent has contacted Reynobond to confirm the reports but has as of yet received no response.

It has also emerged that the fire-resistant panel costs £24 per square metre — £2 more expensive than the flammable version. This indicates that, based on a rough estimate that the panels covered more than 2,000 square metres on the tower, contractors could have acquired the fire-resistant version for less than £5,000 extra.

The PE panels conform to UK standards but are rated as “flammable” in Germany, which places them in the same category as “unprotected wood with a thickness of no more than 12mm”.

It came after The Independent learnt that thousands of homes in tower blocks across the UK are to undergo urgent safety reviews amid concerns that exterior cladding commonly used on such buildings could have led to the horrific speed at which the flames spread.

Thousands of homes in tower blocks across the UK will have urgent safety reviews following anger among residents who said they had sounded the alarm over issues at Grenfell Tower dating back several years.

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