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Grenfell: Arconic manager knew of ACM cladding risk 10 years before

16 Mar 2021 |Garet

Grenfell: Arconic manager knew of ACM cladding risk 10 years before

A marketing manager at Arconic received a “very high shock” after a 2007 warning of the combustibility of polyethylene-cored (PE) ACM cladding, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Presenting evidence to the Inquiry yesterday (10 March), lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett QC read out a report written by Arconic marketing manager Gérard Sonntag after attending a presentation organised by a company called Astrup in Oslo, Norway.

The presentation by consultant and cladding expert Fred-Roderich Pohl compared ACM and solid aluminium cladding. Sonntag recounted how Pohl had compared the “fuel power” of ACM cladding with a PE core on a project of 5,000m2 to a truck containing 19,000 litres of oil.

Sonntag said the presentation was “very impressive and was well-received by all customers who were present during the presentation”.

The presentation also carried photos of an ACM fire at a tower in Doha, Qatar, to show how quickly fire could spread. It also warned that people could die from smoke inhalation in an ACM fire within two to three minutes.

Sonntag said his colleague Claude Wehrle, who has so far refused to appear before the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to give evidence, showed him a copy of a presentation where these arguments were mentioned but that Pohl “is a very persuasive person and the arguments are ten times much stronger during the seminars”.

Sonntag warned in his report that showing such a presentation “in Brussels” could be “catastrophic for the ACM products”.

He said: “One of the arguments from Mr Pohl was: ‘What will happen if only one building made out of PR core is in fire and will kill 60-70 persons, what is the responsibility of the ACM supplier?’”

He suggested the company should examine the financial impact if Arconic decided to sell Reynobond cladding with only a fire-resistant (FR) core and that the company should consider launching a cost reduction programme to enable it to produce FR cores at the cost of PE cores.

After reading out the report, Millett said: “Questions which arise would include: was there any discussion within Arconic, either before or after this meeting, about selling only ACM with an FR core? If there was, what happened to those discussions?”

Millett also posed the question: “Was there any discussion within Arconic about Mr Sonntag’s question: What is the responsibility of the manufacturer in the event of a fire of the type and magnitude he describes?”

Millett also asked whether the background to an Arconic programme to produce “FR at PE cost” was the known dangers of PE-cored ACM identified in the paper.

The Inquiry continues.