Although technically allowed at the time by the U.K. building code, Kingspan used what its own employees called a “loophole” and “a bit of a cheat” to achieve a higher fire rating (Class 0) for K15 in 2008, 2012, and 2016 by testing only the foil surface of the insulation, even though the complete product had failed the test.
This test was the U.K. BS 476-6 test, a fire propagation test similar to the ATSM E84/UL723 test in the United States. Kingspan classified K15 as class 0 by testing only the foil surface of K15 in 2008, 2012, and 2106. In the 2012 test, moreover, Kingspan used a research & development version of K15 which had a fire retardant lacquer added to it.
Not until the Grenfell Inquiry more than 10 years after the product was first marketed using this test method — did Kingspan reveal that it had repeatedly classified the product as Class 0 based on testing only the facer. While agreeing it was an allowable interpretation, its own external fire engineer (Exova) had advised Kingspan to test the complete product before making any claim “as the foam behind the foil is likely to have a bearing on the facing performance.”
An instant messaging exchange in 2008 between Kingspan marketing and technical employees showed employees joking about this method of testing K15:
Chalmers: “[K15] doesn’t actually get class 0 when we test the whole product tho LOL!”
Moss: “WHAT, We lied? Honest opinion now.”
Chalmers: “Yeahhh. Tested K15 as a whole- got class 1. Wheyy. lol”
Moss: Whey. Shit product. Scrap it.
Chalmers: “Yeah All lies, mate” and “Alls we do is lie in here.”
Years later, in 2016, with Kingspan still employing this testing method, Kingspan’s Arron Chalmers sends an email:
Yeah, does seem a bit of a cheat though doesn’t it claiming Class 0 for just a facer test, when as you said it’s meant to be product as placed on the market… If a fire engineer believes the core will affect the facing performance though should we be claiming class 0 based off facer performance alone if 40mm K15 then fails to get class 0?
At this point, another member of the team emails:
Perhaps it would be better if you had a meeting to discuss this verbally.
Current managers at Kingspan were part of the email chain referring to this “bit of a cheat,” including Adrian Pargeter (Director of Technical, Marketing, and Regulatory Affairs for Kingspan Insulation UK), Adam Heath (Regulatory Affairs Manager for Fire, Kingspan Insulation UK), Dan Ball (Technical Project Leader at Kingspan Insulation UK), and Adrian Brazier (Technical Project Manager UK).
Pargeter was asked about this in his testimony before the Inquiry on December 8, 2020:
Inquiry: Does this exchange tell us that you were prepared to interpret ADB [Building Code] in a particular way in order to make sales?
Pargeter: Yes that would be true.
Inquiry: And that particular way was less safe, less conservative, and not ideal?
Pargeter: Potentially, yes
Pargeter admitted that he was aware that Kingspan continued marketing K15 using tests that had been done on altered versions of K15, and he wrote letters recommending the use of K15 in numerous high rises with ACM cores by citing large scale tests, even though K15 had not in fact been successfully tested for that use. He continued to stand by Kingspan’s decision to label K15 as class 0 by testing only the surface, calling that a “fair interpretation.” He was in charge of a 2015 campaign to market K15 in which he said the goal was to “spin such that the story is not fire, fire, fire all the time” and to “educate the industry in matters of combustibility… and its insignificance in terms of individual product performance in the grand scheme of things.”