In the early hours of June 14, a faulty Hotpoint refrigerator-freezer sparked a small fire in an apartment on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower in west London. Within an hour, flames engulfed the 24-story building. Despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters and 20 ambulance crews, 79 people were confirmed or presumed dead as a result of the blaze. Another 74 were injured.
In the days following the disaster, investigators found that aluminum composite panels that make up the exterior skin of the building failed fire safety tests. Worse still, British officials discovered more than a dozen other high-rise residential apartment buildings featured similar metal composite material panels.
The exterior cladding on the building was composed of Reynobond® PE Metal Composite Material (MCM) Panels that consist of a polyethylene-based core covered on all sides by thin layers of aluminum, manufactured by Arconic through its subsidiary Alcoa Architectural Products. Workers installed the new cladding as part of a larger renovation just last year. According to the New York Times, experts have argued against this aluminum material for years, explaining how quickly it can melt in a fire.
“It is like you have got a high-rise building and you are encasing it in kerosene,” Edwin Galea, director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich, told the Times. “It is insanity, pure and simple.”
The United States and Europe banned this type of metal composite material in high-rises years ago (the PE panels can be used up to certain heights under applicable U.S. codes), and despite early British government reports to the contrary, it has not yet been banned for use in such buildings in the United Kingdom.
It gets worse. Just this week, Reuters uncovered emails between Arconic executives, which not only revealed their awareness of the danger this material posed, but that they knew it would be used in the restoration of this high-rise – and said nothing. In a public statement Arconic executives admitted they “had known the panels would be used at Grenfell Tower but that it was not its role to decide what was or was not compliant with local building regulations.”
Arconic has apparently decided it has a role now. The aluminum panel manufacturer has announced it will no longer be selling Reynobond® PE products to high-rise building manufacturers.
The Colorado construction defect attorneys at Burg Simpson are investigating whether the Reynobond® PE aluminum composite panels have been used in the construction of any high- or mid-rise buildings in the United States.
If you’ve been hurt from a defective product and you’d like to discuss your case with our Colorado construction defect lawyers. Contact a Burg Simpson construction defects lawyer for more information today by calling 303-792-5595 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation form right now.