The maker of the panels used to clad the London tower block where at least 30 people died in a fire this week advised customers against using its polyethylene-cored tiles in high rise buildings.

Diagrams in a brochure dated 2016 for Reynobond tiles reviewed by Reuters show how polyethylene (PE) core tiles are suitable only for buildings of up to 10 metres in height.

“As soon as the building is higher than the firefighters’ ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material,” the brochure says.

The brochure was issued by French-based Arconic Architectural Products, which is responsible for the marketing in Europe of systems produced by US company Arconic, which owns Reynobond.

The Guardian and the BBC have reported in recent days that panels with a PE core were used in a refurbishment of the 24-storey tower bock that was completed last year.

Construction company Rydon Group, which undertook the work, and the local authority which owns Grenfell Tower declined to confirm whether the panels were PE.

Arconic did not respond to requests for comment.

Rydon had earlier said the revamp “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards”.

Other diagrams in the Reynobond brochure show that panels with a fire retardant core – the FR model, according to Arconic’s website – can be used for buildings of up to 30 metres tall. Above that height, it says, panels with a non-combustible core – the A2 model – should be used.

Grenfell Tower is over 60 metres tall.

John Cowley, director of Omnis Exteriors which supplied the padding for the refurbishment but did not install it, told the Guardian that the company had been asked to supply the Reynobond PE variant.
The newspaper said the PE panels were STG2 ($3.35) cheaper per square metre than the Reynobond FR option.

Reuters has not been able to confirm independently whether the PE panels were ultimately used or whether the use of PE-core panels is legal in Britain.

Fire safety experts say polyethylene is generally avoided in tall buildings as it has been linked to a number of rapidly spreading fires at skyscrapers in Dubai and elsewhere.

“Polyethylene is a thermoplastic material, which … melts and drips as it burns, spreading the fire downwards as well as upwards,” architectural consultants Probyn Miers said in a note on insulation materials posted on its website.

Witnesses to Wednesday’s blaze said the flames spread quickly up the building, which was left a charred shell.

Building regulations documents did not specifically say PE-core panels should not be used, but three industry experts interviewed by Reuters said that did not mean builders were clearly permitted to use them.
The law often requires companies to act safely without giving a specific definition of what this would involve, said Christopher Miers of Probyn Miers.

Firms are instead expected to be able to prove in court they behaved in a way their industry would consider safe, these experts added.


By Tom Bergin
  • I don't understand why this so toxic and inflammable substance Polyethylene is used in building at all! I am no expert but this seems like a huge NO from the start. It seems logical to me that any 'ethylene' based material is just bad in any building. Too many construction companies use cheap and nasty materials then leave it up to owners to fix their bad work, it's criminal. They are getting away with murder, literally. When my unit block was built builders did dodgy flashing, bad electrics and a number of other things we had to fix as owners. Why do Councils approve such work? Who is responsible? No one, it is the owners that have to pay in the end. Makes me mad.

  • Sharon, it all comes down to money, bureaucracy and a public service that drives the way the Ministers think. Amongst the horror and sadness, and with full respect to those who passed away, at least in London they are having REAL inquiries and they are taking RESPONSIBILITY, all be it too late, for this catastrophe. Here in Victoria we saw the Minister and the now ex CEO of the VBA come out and say everything is OK. Now Prue Digby has gone, Richard Wynne has a scapegoat and the Government has a spin-doctor telling the Consumers that they know better than years of Industry experience. Set up another committee. Ted Baillue and John Thwaites. Thwaites, like the former Chairman of the VBA, BILL KUSZNIRCZUK also has a conflict of interest here. Wonderful how Bill came out last week saying that the cladding is unsafe on 3aw with Neil Mitchell. It was certainly a very different comment before. Now how impartial will Ted and John be. Ted, a former Architect will certainly be siding with his old mates. Thwaites, he wont stand up and tell the truth and make those responsible bear the costs. This will go round in circles, lawyers ill make obscene amounts of money, the PUBLIC SERVICE will be gainfully employed and nothing will be resolved. The Minister is too gutless to "fess up and make it right" because he would have to resign and the truth about the VBA, the Government REGULATOR, would be exposed to incompetence yet again. It is all about money, fair and legal are fantasy. Watch this space for the latest exploding glass. Government's media spin-doctor said it wasn't serious because it shattered into tiny pieces. Well Jane, how about standing underneath and showing us, I challenge you, Minister Wynne and the faceless men and women of the VBA to do so. Pass me the dictionary, I need to look up HONESTY, INTEGRITY, and TRUTH.

Autodesk – 300 X 250 (Exp Dec 31 2017)