The UK Government’s Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry revealed a 14-year pattern of deceptive fire safety practices related to Kingspan’s product Kooltherm K15. The revelations about Kingspan’s behavior with respect to fire testing, certification, and mis-marketing have implications well beyond the Grenfell Tower fire. Architects have to be able to trust that the product specified for a building will be the same product tested and certified according to the manufacturer’s marketing materials. SMART is calling for an investigation into Kingspan’s marketing practices in the U.S. across all of its products.
Leaders in the architecture industry are taking action after learning about the Grenfell Inquiry evidence. In May, the International Living Future Institute, a green building and product certifying organization, removed Kingspan from their website in an act of solidarity and concern over the company’s record.
In 2022, the United States Green Building Council, the administering body of LEED Green Building Certification, confirmed that Kingspan was no longer a sponsor of its USGBC Live event series. Also in 2022, the American Institute of Architects website stopped featuring Kingspan on it as an AIA sponsor or provider of AIA continuing education courses (past courses on fire safety have been scrubbed from the site).
Over the last year, building officials and architects operating in eleven U.S. states have reversed or restricted the specification of Kingspan on projects after learning about evidence related to Kingspan’s business practices, in some cases removing the manufacturer from master specifications:
“We have removed the Kingspan product[s] from our master spec and informed the general contractor not to use [them] on any of their construction projects as well. They agreed to remove [them] from their list as well. Our team will make sure to remove [Kingspan] from our spec and drawings forward.” – David Seongbae Kim, Principal, CORBeL Architects, Los Angeles, CA
“We will let the GC know for NIHOP [New Infill Homeownership Opportunities Program] prior to start and change our spec for the NCPs [Neighborhood Construction Program].” –RKTB Architects, New York, NY
“We will refrain from specifically naming Kingspan as an acceptable manufacturer for future projects.” – Procurement & Contract Director, subsidiary of the Housing Authority for the City of Milwaukee, WI
“We will continue to monitor future construction projects to ensure that this product is not used.” – Director of Building Programs for Alvin Independent School District in Texas
“We have also removed Kingspan from our master specification.” – Brian Wolf, Principal, Garmann Miller, Columbus, Ohio
“Our intent is to remove Kingspan insulation from our projects until further clarification/testing is done to verify required fire safety concerns and regulations. We have already taken the steps to remove Kooltherm K15 from our upcoming projects.” – Project Architect, Davis Architects, Birmingham, Alabama
“We are working with the staff at City of Lenexa and making changes to our specifications to use products from a different brand for this project. We will avoid using Kingspan on other projects we may do in the future.” – Architectural Designer, B&A Architecture, Kansas City, Missouri
“We as the State of West Virginia refuse this product anywhere on our premises and request diligence during the submittal process that no Kingspan KoolTherm K15 product be allowed in, on, or utilized in our HVAC renovation project.” – Patrick O’Neill, Building Project Management Specialist, General Services Division, West Virginia
“We are cognizant of Kingspan’s issues and are not currently specifying them.” – Steven D. Shows, AIA, Principal Architect, VSG Architects, Southwest Louisiana
“Yes TBA Studio will avoid products by Kingspan until this situation is worked out.” – Dale DeMoss, Quality Control, TBA Studio, West Monroe, Louisiana
Forty-six local and national environmental justice organizations in the U.S., including Greenpeace USA, signed onto a statement in March 2022 calling on the green building community to stop partnering with Kingspan. Architects should follow the lead of those who have already taken action, and should avoid specifying Kingspan products until a thorough investigation into Kingspan’s marketing and fire safety testing in the U.S. is completed.