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Client tells contractor to apologise for using Kingspan insulation board

Jun 03, 2023

A contractor has been told to remove insulation from balconies and issue an apology to residents after breaching a local ban on the use of Kingspan products.

It has emerged that, earlier this month, Kent-headquartered Lawtech was told to remove the product it had installed on 16 balconies across the Adair and Hazlewood tower blocks in North Kensington.

The contractor had been working on a £7m remediation project on the towers, which involves the removal of their external render systems.

In 2021, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said it would not allow any contractors to use products made by Kingspan on any of its projects, after allegations about the firm’s conduct emerged during the Grenfell Tower Inquiry into the 2017 blaze at the building.

Kim Taylor-Smith, the council’s lead member for Grenfell, housing and social investment, said last week that, after the Kingspan product was identified by officers on 7 July, it instructed Lawtech to “remove it immediately”.

“This has now been done and will be replaced with the originally specified product, Rockwool,” she said. “Lawtech’s use of Kingspan is an absolute breach of our instruction and trust. I am deeply disappointed and have asked for a full explanation of how this has happened. I expect Lawtech to make an apology to our residents. “We made a public commitment in 2021 that the council would no longer contract with Kingspan, nor would we allow our contractors to subcontract with them or allow its use by any subcontractors on any projects in the borough. We stand by this commitment.”

The council’s ban followed allegations made about the conduct of materials suppliers Kingspan, Arconic and Celotex, as well as contractor Rydon, during the inquiry. It said it would stop working with, or use products made by, any of the companies. It is due to review its position after the inquiry’s final report has been published. This is now expected to be in 2024.

Grenfell United, the group that represents bereaved families and survivors, told The Guardian: “We are disgusted that once again contractors such as Lawtech have shown complete disregard and allowed Kingspan’s product back into the homes of social housing tenants in Kensington and Chelsea. The lack of oversight that allowed this to happen is extremely concerning.”

Lawtech has been approached for comment.

A statement from the company supplied to the My London website said: “The installation was to an isolated area and it was removed on the same day the inspections identified the Kingspan-brand insulation board. The use of Kingspan boards was an isolated error and these boards have not been used anywhere else on the works.”

The contractor added that the mineral wool Kingspan boards that had been used were A1 non-combustible and equivalent to the approved Rockwool insulation. “[The boards] posed no risk whatsoever to any resident. However, Lawtech fully accepts that [the council’s] ban on the use of products was unfortunately breached in this isolated incident, which was immediately identified and promptly rectified,” it said.

Kingspan has been approached for comment.

During the inquiry, material suppliers, including Kingspan, were accused of trying to “game the system” by “placing unsafe products in the market”. It has previously said: “Kingspan did not supply or recommend the use of its K15 insulation on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, which made up only 5 per cent of the insulation layer purchased for use and was entirely inappropriate for use in a cladding system with a polyethylene-cored ACM.”

Ian Weinfass