THE COMPANY’S technical manager Philip Heath apologised for his ‘totally unprofessional’ comments in relation to questions over the K15 insulation, while more details were given about the tests it failed.

The Guardian, Inside Housing and ITV News reported on Mr Heath’s evidence, which revealed that he had been ‘belligerent’ over fire concerns relating to the product in 2008 in emails to colleagues and friends. Mr Heath’s ‘angry responses’ came after questioning of K15’s safety, with contractor Bowmer & Kirkland seeking assurance in 2008 about the newer version – which had been sold based on the tests undertaken on an older version that ‘caught fire more slowly’.

That company had been asking Kingspan about the product in relation to a tower called City Park, and Mr Heath assured it that K15 was ‘classified as class 0, or low risk’, and was suitable in rainscreen facades ‘and it’s deemed to satisfy’. However, 15 was ‘struggling to achieve’ a safety standard at the time, with Mr Heath sending a three year old safety certificate relating to a ‘less combustible formulation’.

Bowmer & Kirkland were ‘not satisfied’, and replied that ‘you have not substantiated… on what basis the Kooltherm K15 is suitable for buildings over 18m’ – Mr Heath forwarded this email to friends, and said ‘I think Bowmer & Kirkland are getting me confused with someone who gives a dam. I’m trying to think of a way out of this one, imagine a fire running up this tower !!!!!…!!!! Any ideas…?’.

In his defence, Mr Heath said that he sent this to a ‘dear friend’ who was terminally ill at the time, and was doing it ‘to show him what was going on at the time’, adding that ‘I can only apologise for the content of that email’. He said he had been ‘in a dark place’ because of his friend being terminally ill, ‘and dealing with Bowmer and Kirkland was not my number one priority at the time’.

Asked by inquiry counsel Kate Grange why he mentioned a fire, Mr Heath said he was trying to explain ‘some of the implications’, but soon after this query another contractor on that project – Wintech – complained that K15 was not suitable as the cladding planned for use had open joints so ‘external fire breakthrough… will be easier than the test sample’. It had been forwarded the query from Bowmer & Kirkland, as it was a façade engineering consultancy.

That company advised the contractor that the insulation ‘would not be appropriate’, with consultant Greg Sinclair writing that ‘Kingspan keep repeating that the product… is suitable for use in buildings over 18m. What they fail to say is that it is suitable only in the configuration tested’. Mr Heath accepted that these points were ‘entirely legitimate’, but told colleagues at the time that ‘Wintech can go f*ck themselves and if they are not careful we will sue the arse of them’.

When Ms Grange asked him if his tone ‘reflected a culture in Kingspan at the time’, he denied this, stating that ‘I don’t believe so. Like any organisation you have your good times and difficult times, we were just going round in a circle with Wintech and some frustration has come out on a Friday afternoon’. However, he admitted ‘it was totally unprofessional… I think it was just frustration that we were going round in circles with them’.

He was also asked about Kingspan’s threat of legal action against the National House Building Council if it shared concerns about evidence for claims of safety. Questioned why he did not take these issues seriously given they related to ‘life safety’, Mr Heath said ‘I think we did take life safety seriously’.

Kingspan sister company Off-Site also asked Mr Heath about K15’s fire performance, but he ‘did not divulge’ that it had performed worse in more recent tests, and shared his response to Off-Site with a colleague, adding that ‘I’m spinning so much I’m dizzy’. Ms Grange then asked whether he accepted ‘that there existed no test evidence during the period you were technical manager that K15 as being sold complied with the requirements for use above 18m?’.

In response, he said ‘with hindsight I can see why you have made that comment’, to which Ms Grange suggested that ‘you direct that as a position that Kingspan were taking and you endorsed it at the time’; he responded that ‘I believe there was a collective belief in that respect, it wasn’t just one person’.

Mr Heath was also asked about obtaining certification from the British Board of Agrement and Local Authority Building Control (LABC) for K15 despite the product having been changed, having a ‘reduced fire performance’ and having failed tests. Inside Housing noted that the LABC certificate said K15 ‘can be considered a material of limited combustibility’, and was therefore suitable for use in ‘all situations’ on high rises.

While ‘no plastic insulation could ever achieve a rating of limited combustibility’, the news outlet noted this was a ‘fact Mr Heath knew’, but on receiving the certificate, wrote internally that this was ‘GREAT NEWS!’, and the line on limited combustibility a ‘highlight’. Asked at the time by a senior Kingspan staff member how this had been obtained, he had said ‘we can be very convincing when we need to be, we threw every bit of fire test data we could at him, we probably blocked his server.

‘In the end I think LABC convinced themselves [K15] is the best thing since sliced bread. We didn’t even have to get any real ale down him!’. Ms Grange suggested Mr Heath ‘knew that certificate was misleading and you celebrated it because it was an open ticket’ to install K15 on high rises. He disagreed, stating ‘I don’t think that’s the case, no’, explaining he believed the phrase meant it could be treated as limited combustibility if used in the system tested, which the certificate did not state.

Later emails he sent showed him state his belief that further testing could be stopped, as the certificates would ‘satisfy queries’, and Ms Grange said ‘this was a get out of jail card wasn’t it?’, as ‘you were coming under pressure prior to this certificate to justify the use of K15... and then this falls into your lap and it buys time during which K15 can continue being installed on high rise buildings, that’s the reality isn’t it?’.

He responded that tests ‘were continuing, it’s not like we completely stopped. In relation to large scale tests we were stopping testing, but from a technical process side of things there were still small scale tests being undertaken’. Asked why ‘it’s there in black and white’ that ‘we see a complete absence of consideration of life safety’, Mr Heath said ‘I don’t believe it was the mindset of Kingspan at the time, but on reflection I can see that, yes’.

On the failure to withdraw K15 even after the 2007 test where it ‘burnt very ferociously’ Mr Heath said he ‘can’t recall’ considering whether it was ‘appropriate’ to keep selling the product, with Ms Grange asking ‘why you didn’t say “stop all sales of this product, particularly sales over 18 metres, we need to do some further investigations”’, he said ‘I can’t recollect why I wouldn’t have said that, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have said that’.

He conceded that ‘on reflection, yes’ he ought to have considered withdrawing K15 for buildings 18m and taller, and asked if senior managers had discussed this, he said ‘not that I can recall, no’, and asked why not, said ‘I don’t know’.