THE INQUIRY heard from Harley Facades project manager Ben Bailey, and it was revealed that the insulation used was sold ‘at almost 50% discount’ for use on the tower.

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 – Ben Bailey - 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.

More 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. Most recently, it was revealed that ‘nobody’ at Harley ‘was designated with the responsibility of assessing the fire safety of products used’, alongside a series of revelations about lack of experience, cost issues and competence.

The Guardian and BD Online reported on Ben Bailey’s evidence at the inquiry, at which it was revealed that the tower might have been used as ‘a guinea pig’ for the Celotex RS5000 polyisocyanurate foam insulation, which ‘burned and released toxic gas’ during the fire. The boards were sold ‘at an almost 50% discount’ by the manufacturer to contractors ‘who were asked for help making the refurbishment a “case study” for the firm’.

The discount, from supplier SIG, was worth almost £41,500 based on a quote for 660 panels, but the material was not in the original architects’ specification for the project, and Mr Bailey admitted that he ‘did not check’ it complied with building regulations ‘to prevent fires spreading through the external walls of tall buildings’.

A Celotex salesman had ‘pushed the idea’ of using Grenfell as a case study for the use of the insulation, and Mr Bailey said that the only assessment of its performance that he saw was of its thermal insulation, and not its fire performance.

He was given charge of the cladding contract at 25 ‘despite having no experience overseeing a project as project manager from start to finish’, and told the inquiry that he had ‘received no training or qualifications in fire safety in construction of buildings, in building regulations or industry codes of practice for design and installation of cladding and windows’.

The insulation has now been ‘withdrawn from sale’ post Grenfell, and Mr Bailey confirmed that Harley had been offered a 47.5% discount, described by inquiry counsel Richard Millett as a ‘hefty’ discount, though Mr Bailey said it was ‘not unusual on large orders’. He said that ‘it’s not unusual in my experience of ordering stuff, not just from SIG but from other suppliers, that large orders get a discount without even asking’.

When asked if the reason for using the material was price, he stated ‘I don’t believe that was the case’, with the inquiry shown a document from April 2015 that showed he and Celotex had discussed using Grenfell as a ‘case study’. This was to present the new material as one ‘aimed at the high-rise market’, and Mr Bailey said that while ‘I don’t remember that meeting or that being discussed particularly’, he noted that it was on later occasions.

Mr Millett asked whether Mr Bailey had the ‘impression’ that Grenfell was ‘as it were, a guinea pig’ for installing RS5000, with the latter responding that ‘that’s not a thought that crossed my mind’. However, he noted that ‘there was correspondence later in the year about a case study’, and The Guardian pointed out that RS5000 was introduced to the market ‘just as Harley was starting to source materials for Grenfell’.

Differing from the material on the architect’s specification, the news outlet added that Harley had a ‘contractual obligation to Rydon […] to only change materials with its consent’, but Mr Bailey said he ‘didn’t know this’. He also did not look at a contractual document stating Harley was responsible for ensuring cladding met the demands of official guidance on fire performance of external walls, which also said that Harley ‘had to comply’ with all building regulations and a national standard for walls with vertical rainscreens.

This stated that ‘the system shall not be a fire risk at any stage of installation, nor shall it constitute a fire hazard after completion if for any reason the insulant becomes exposed’. Mr Bailey added that he ‘wasn’t aware of that document at the time’, and in response to the fact that RS5000 product literature stated that its classification for safe use on buildings 18m or taller ‘only applied to the system as tested and detailed in the classification report’ – which did not test it with combustible ‘plasti-filled’ aluminium panels – he said ‘that’s not something I was aware of’.

In turn, he also admitted that ‘it was never’ his role to be considering fire performance of materials. Mr Millett also provided a March 2015 email from Celotex’ major projects and specification manager Jonathan Roome, in which he asked for details of the SIG branch Harley was ordering through ‘to make sure that the pricing and supply chain is looked after for you’.

Confirming the case study discussions, Mr Bailey said he guessed that ‘being an insulation supplier [Celotex] might be interested in what U-value’, or the measure of heat transfer through a structure, ‘was achieved’ at Grenfell, and later conceded that he was aware that the product ‘hadn’t been used widely before’. He was also asked if he had ever had conversations with Studio E’s project lead Neil Crawford about switching from FR5000 to RS5000, and its compliance with building regulations.

Responding, Mr Bailey said Mr Crawford had been ‘quite laid back’ when he was made aware of the change, and that the latter had responded with an observation ‘along the lines’ of ‘yes that’s a typo’. Mr Millett asked in turn how it was possible that the original National Building Specification, dating back to January 2014, could have contained a typo relating to RS5000 ‘eight months before the product was launched’.

Mr Bailey conceded that he may have been ‘misremembering’ the conversation, though he maintained that the ‘gist’ of what had been said was that he ‘should be seeing RS5000’ on the specification.