HARLEY FACADES’ staff continued to give evidence at the inquiry, with a series of revelations about lack of experience, cost issues and competence all discussed.

The inquiry resumed on 7 September, and its first day saw Rydon’s commercial manager state that the company ‘struggled’ to find cladding specialists for the refurbishment of the tower. Last week, Harley’s owner Ray Bailey said that he did not know that Celotex insulation was flammable, and accused the company of ‘misleading’ his firm.

It was then revealed that his 25 year old son was hired to project manage the refurbishment, while he had also called for a full combustibles ban; other Harley staff continued to testify, with no technical manager said to have been in place that was qualified to advise on fire performance, and an estimating error was made about cladding costs.

Most recently, its former design manager revealed that emails, documents and drawings relating to the refurbishment ‘appear to have been lost forever’ after a laptop was wiped. Inside Housing, BD Online, Architects’ Journal and Evening Standard all reported on the latest evidence, including that ‘nobody’ at Harley ‘was designated with the responsibility of assessing the fire safety of products used’.

Inquiry counsel Kate Grange asked Daniel Anketell-Jones whose job it was at the time to ‘think about fire’, to which he said there was ‘nobody across the company’ with that role. He added: ‘Each individual person would look after the responsibility on the projects. [For Grenfell] the responsibility would fall on Kevin [Lamb, lead designer] and Ben [Bailey, project manager].’

While the company had no technical manager, the projects he worked on would see responsibility for ‘ensuring the designs of cladding systems complied with the building regulations’ passed back to clients and design teams, and further details were given as to the resistance to fire breaks and the lack of designing in of cavity barriers above windows.

He was shown an email he sent to project stakeholders that stated ‘there is no point of “fire stopping”; as we all know; the ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire’. Asked to elaborate, he said that he knew from structural design training that ACM was ‘unable to resist fire for long periods’, and would melt and fall off.

Asked how this was consistent with his evidence that he was ‘concerned with and educated on structural issues only’, he responded: ‘It’s what I picked up from the email further down, and picking up bits and pieces over the years. It was not an area I was trained on and I would always send off the drawings to consultants to be checked on other projects.’

Harley was later revealed to have received a 48% discount on the insulation, in an invoice from supplier SIG. Harley paid £45,804 for 660 sheets of Celotex RS5000, but the document listed it as £132.19 per sheet, which would have totalled £87,425. The material was also different to the Celotex FR50000 ‘originally specified’ by Studio E, and was found to have ‘contributed to the rate and the extent’ of fire spread.

Mr Anketell-Jones denied any knowledge of the reduction, and when asked if he would have agreed this was a ‘hefty discount’, stated: ‘I wouldn’t be able to comment on it because I wasn’t buying those products – I wouldn’t know if that was normal or abnormal.’

He also denied the insulation was chosen due to the discount, adding: ‘The only reasons that RS5000 would have been put forward on any project were that we were being told it was appropriate for use above 18m, and it was one of the few insulations that was capable of achieving the high performance requirements.’

Asked how much he ‘really knew about’ cladding and fire safety, he ‘could not remember’ attending any events held by the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology, but Ms Grange presented evidence that he had been to one of its one day conferences, with talks on fire testing experiences covering mechanisms of external fire spread and fire testing for facades.

He ‘did not remember’ the event, but admitted ‘I think I might have been there and not concentrating because it wasn’t what I was trained in and not part of my remit. I can’t explain why I don’t remember. Either I was sitting somewhere else or not sitting in the room, I don’t know’.

A Celotex employee he attended it with told colleagues it was ‘a mix of opinion and fact (and a lot of the opinion was pretty one-sided – the use of non-combustible materials only) […] a lot of people that I spoke to afterwards disagreed with a lot of what was said’. Mr Anketell-Jones added: ‘I can’t remember anything in relation to that conference […] I can’t remember being there, to be honest but, if I was, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge to, you know, cast any opinions on it.’

Asked if he would do anything differently, he said: ‘Looking back on it, because my role was very limited and I was only asked to dip in and out and look at pieces of info, and do structural design, I think at that point I didn’t have the education or knowledge to pick up on signs or see things were missing. So, I don’t think I could have done anything differently without the education I have now.’

Mr Lamb, the project designer, said he was ‘merely a freelance drafting service’ who was ‘charged with’ converting architect drawings into fabrication versions. He had agreed to do ‘around 41 days of work’ as Harley ‘did not have the in-house capacity’ to translate architect drawings into plans for construction. He was a former boss of Mr Anketell-Jones and had worked on the Chalcots Estate refurbishment with Harley and Rydon.

Mr Lamb ‘is not a qualified architect’, and – when asked whether he knew Harley was going to ‘present him’ as the project designer when he agreed to work on it – said ‘he did not’, adding: ‘You don’t want to read too much into that term. There’s a general consensus that once you put the word “designer” in there there’s an element of responsibility, far more than maybe there should be. I was never told I was lead designer. I was told I was project designer. The first I knew of that was when they had some business cards printed up with my name on.’

He added that the title had not stopped him from ‘being quite clear’ that he was working through Harley’s technical team’, Harley having been ‘keen to reassure’ Rydon it had a design team working on the project ‘at a time when it lacked in-house capacity to deal with the project’. Mr Lamb also said it had ‘been his understanding’ that Studio E was responsible for checking the cladding complied with building regulations.

Asked if anyone at Harley had told him the firm would not check compliance, and that Studio E would, he replied ‘no, that was an assumption that I made, based on 30 years of never doing it a different way’, and added that it would have been ‘quite obvious’ if the architects ‘did not have that role […] at no stage’ during his involvement ‘did he get the idea the practice was not checking for statutory compliance’.

Asked if he had knowledge of the contractual relationship that defined Harley’s role, he said he ‘did not’, and added that materials were always issued to him as ‘a fait accompli: this is what we’re doing’. Ms Grange asked about his familiarity with building regulations and guidance, and Mr Lamb said that he had checked both Approved Document B and the product information for Celotex ‘as part of his work’.

He also ‘did not know’ there was an issue about using polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation on buildings 18m or taller, nor that the Class 0 description ‘primarily concerned lining materials’ or the requirements for cavity barriers around windows, though he had a ‘hunch’ about this. Although he noticed the absence of cavity barriers on Studio E’s drawings, he believed this was a design ‘that followed a different route to statutory compliance’.

He stated: ‘The architect had the use of a fire consultant and they must have considered this cavity barrier design. Between them, they must have considered this design to be compliant. The last thing the architect wants is to say “Oh, I forgot to put cavity barriers around the windows”, and then the subcontractor would be asking the client for more money because they’ve not provided these items.’

Having said that the ‘buck stopped’ with the architects, Mr Lamb was shown drawings from Studio E, with Ms Grange highlighting that an inquiry expert analysed them and ‘was not clear whether a cavity barrier was marked’, asking Mr Lamb if he had considered double checking if ‘they were supposed to be there’. He responded that this was ‘discussed internally at Harley’, but if the architects wanted it ‘it would have been made clearer’.

Questioned by inquiry chair Sir Martin-Moore Bick as to why, if ‘there was some debate’ in Harley as to what the drawings showed, why ‘didn’t you think it appropriate’ to say ‘well I really need to hear from the architects so I can do the right sort of drawing’, Mr Lamb agreed, but added that ‘obviously everything Harley told me to do would supersede that… I was happy with advice from Harley.

‘They were the cladding specialists, they obviously felt it wasn’t necessary, or they’ve had discussions, I don’t know’. He agreed that cavity barriers around windows were required and were ‘not an insignificant detail’, as well as being ‘potentially relevant to life safety’, with Ms Grange asking in turn ‘why wouldn’t you want [these] expressly flagged and considered carefully by all the design team?’.

Mr Lamb responded that ‘my superior, my client, gave me confidence to do exactly what I did, which was to follow the architect’s drawings. By virtue of following his drawings, we’ve produced our drawings and he’s approved them. You can expect that he’s happy that there is conformance’. He disagreed in turn that it was ‘obvious these were very early drawings’, stating that they ‘are quite detailed as far as an architects’ drawings are concerned’.