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Rydon, the main contractor on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, was “reliant on others” when it came to ensuring the suitability of materials used on the façade, the inquiry into the fire has heard.
Former Rydon contracts manager Simon Lawrence appeared
before the Inquiry yesterday to give evidence.
Richard Millett QC, leading counsel to the Grenfell Tower
Inquiry, asked Lawrence if Rydon had any processes in place to ensure that
materials which readily supported combustion were not used on any of its
Lawrence replied: “Well, I think it would be using a
competent design team, competent specialist contractors, backed up by Building
Control, and all the layers within.”
Millett asked if this meant “reliance on others”, to which
Lawrence replied that it did.
Asked by Millett what system Rydon had in place to ensure
that the suitability of materials to be used on the façade were judged in
relation to their conditions of use, Lawrence replied: “We would be reliant on
others. We would be reliant on the design team.”
Millett also referred to Studio E architect Bruce Sounes’s
witness statement in which he said that the specialist cladding subcontractor
would hold responsibility for all aspects of their system and the successful
contractor had the discretion to suggest alternative products or materials.
Lawrence agreed that Rydon had the discretion to change
manufacturers with the acceptance of the client.
Asked if Rydon did investigate changing manufacturers or products or materials, Lawrence replied: “I think we – at tender stage we offered alternatives as we were asked to do, but I think there was another manufacturer of ACM cladding.”
He also confirmed that “contractually” it would be Rydon who
was ultimately responsible for suggesting alternative materials and products
but that “in practice, the knowledge would come via the specialist
CWCT document not on site
Meanwhile, Millett probed Lawrence on the NBS specification document for Grenfell Tower, produced by architect Studio E. The document stipulated that copies of the CWCT “Standard for systemised building envelopes” as well as “publications invoked by CWCT’s Standard for systemised building envelopes” should be kept available at the design office, workshop and on site “for the duration of the contract”.
Lawrence admitted that he did not note this paragraph after
Rydon won the tender and had not used the CWCT documents before. He also
confirmed that a copy would not have been kept on site. Asked why not, Lawrence
replied “It obviously wasn’t picked up in all the documents we had to go
through and comply. It obviously wasn’t noticed.”
Asked by Millett why it wasn’t noticed, Lawrence replied: “Just
the sheer amount of information, I would suggest.”
Millett read out two paragraphs from the CWCT standard, which read: “The building envelope shall not be composed of materials which readily support combustion, add significantly to the fire load, and/or give off toxic fumes.
“In all cases , products or elements of construction requiring
a fire resistance or spread of flame performance should have the appropriate
evidence of performance based on test information. The final installation
should follow the applicable test evidence in all respects.”
Lawrence responded that although he had not seen the
document, he was familiar with the principles expressed within it that a
building envelope shouldn’t be composed of materials which support combustion,
add to the fire load, and/or give off toxic fumes.
Millett also asked Lawrence about whether or not Rydon had
processes in place to ensure the need for effective fire barriers was
considered properly on Grenfell. Lawrence replied that Rydon did so by
appointing the specialist subcontractor Harley Curtain Wall, as well as the
design team Studio E and Curtins.
Millett went on to ask if Rydon had any processes in place
for ensuring that the external insulation system for walls of multi-storey
buildings wasn’t a fire risk after completion.
Lawrence replied: “Yes, because we had employed specialist designers that should have been designing and installing to the regs. It was then checked not only by an independent clerk of works but it was also checked by the Building Control officer.”
Millett said: “So not wishing to summarise your evidence
unfairly, but reliance on others?”
Lawrence replied: “Yes.”
The Inquiry continues.