Arconic under scrutiny over deadly Grenfell Tower fire

Posted on 30 Jun 2017 by Michael Cruickshank

US metal products manufacturing company Arconic (formerly Alcoa) has come under scrutiny over the role of one of its products in the fatal Grenfell Tower fire in London.

The charred remains of Grenfell Tower following a fire which killed at least 79 people. Image courtesy of Flickr - ChiralJon
The charred remains of Grenfell Tower following a fire which killed at least 79 people. Image courtesy of FlickrChiralJon

The blaze, which killed at least 79 people, reportedly spread rapidly through the structure due to the use of a combustible cladding material on its exterior.

This material was produced by Arconic and questions have been raised over the why the company allowed this material to be sold.

Specifically, the company had been aware of the fire risk posed by the material, called Reynobond, which consisted of an aluminum casing over a polyethylene (PE) core.

The PE material is combustible and burns with a high energy output when compared to more traditional building materials such as wood. The cladding on another 11 high-rise buildings has also failed fire safety tests, according to the communities secretary, Sajid Javid.

According to reporting by Reuters, a 2016 brochure released by Arconic stated that the PE panels should not be used on buildings higher than 10m tall. Grenfell Tower was over 60m in height.

Emails obtained by Reuters also suggested that Arconic had significant involvement in the supply of these panels for use on Grenfell Tower.

Reportedly UK authorities had said the use of this kind of panels on Grenfell Tower was against the country’s building regulations.

Responding to these reports, Arconic released a statement saying it would end the sale of the Reynobond panels around the world.

“We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings’ overall designs,” the company said.

Despite the preliminary nature of the investigation into Arconic’s possible role in the tragedy, shares for the company have dropped by around 9% since the tragedy.