Was Grenfell Cladding Approved By Residents Swapped For Cheaper Version?

(The Guardian) Grenfell cladding approved by residents was swapped for cheaper version

Fire-resistant zinc cladding approved by residents of Grenfell Tower was replaced in the refurbishment contract with cheaper aluminium panels to save £293,368, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

A list of amendments to the £9.2m contract between Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) and Rydon, the builder for the refurbishment of the 24-storey tower, reveals that the saving was made after tender by fitting “cassette fix aluminium cladding in lieu of zinc cladding”.

In 2012, Studio E Architects proposed zinc cladding with a mineral-rich “fire-retardant polyethylene core”, a decision approved by residents, according to planning papers.

However, it was replaced in 2014 with cheaper aluminium cladding with a polyethylene core which has since proved combustible in government tests.

A tolerance was set for fire performance on the project and both products were within that range, the Guardian understands, but the aluminium panels were considered more combustible. Both products were certified according to the European fire resistance standard. The aluminium panels received a worse rating in terms of the amount of smoke they would emit.

Other savings listed include the removal of all external landscaping works, saving £428,000, and changing window surrounds from birchwood to MDF or softwood in a further £117,000 cut.

The aluminium cladding is suspected of having helped spread the fire that claimed at least 80 lives.

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