Grenfell Inquiry explainer: How rival insulation firms covered up fire-safety data

Grenfell Tower wrapped

As module two is suspended till next year, Jim Dunton looks at the spotlight it has placed on product manufacturers so far

Grenfell Tower insulation manufacturer Celotex was “completely unethical” in its bid to present a product as suitable for use on high-rise buildings and tap rival firm Kingspan’s multimillion-pound market, the probe into 2017’s disaster has heard.

The latest hearings of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry into the fire, which claimed 72 lives, is examining the products used to overclad the west London block as part of its flawed refurbishment, which resulted in a structure that actively promoted the spread of fire (see “What fuelled the fire”, below).

Former staff at Celotex, which was bought by French multinational Saint-Gobain in 2012, told the inquiry the firm set its sights on Kingspan’s “£10m-a-year market” for products for use as part of rainscreen cladding systems on high-rise buildings. Celotex did not have a product to compete with Kingspan’s Kooltherm K15. It decided to rebrand its FR5000 polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation as RS5000 and secure certification for use above 18m. 

Meanwhile Kingspan, which describes itself as the “global leader in high-performance insulation”, was marketing its Kooltherm K15 phenolic insulation with the aid of BRE fire-test reports that it now accepts were “not sufficiently representative” of the product being sold.

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