Gove tells Kingspan to fix buildings or face ‘commercial consequences’

Kingspan must outline how it expects to resolve the fire-safety defects on buildings where it worked, the housing secretary has said.

The insulation firm has until Easter to set up a meeting with officials at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to discuss its remediation plan, or it could face “commercial consequences”, housing secretary Michael Gove has warned.

The Grenfell Inquiry uncovered how officials at Kingspan said fire-safety consultants concerned about the combustibility of the insulation type on Grenfell Tower could “go fuck themselves”.

The inquiry also found that the firm rigged fire-performance tests to lobby MPs over plans to ban combustible materials from high-rise buildings following the fire.

Kingspan’s K15 insulation was present on around 5 per cent of Grenfell Tower’s facade. The remaining insulation used in the facade was manufactured by Celotex. Both insulation products were combustible.

In a letter to Kingspan’s chief executive Gene Murtagh (pictured), Gove said Kingspan displayed “reckless and deceptive behaviour” over the quality of its products.

But he said Kingspan’s recent commitment to pay where its products were used inappropriately was a “positive step”.

Kingspan must meet DLUHC officials to “discuss how you propose to scope, identify, and pay for remediation works”, he added.

In response, Kingspan said its “products were safe”, specifying that K15 insulation was safe “when installed correctly in appropriate external wall systems”.

Last year, Kingspan posted a record profit of £382.5m, which Gove said should “help to fund this commitment”.

“[DLUHC is driven] by our commitment to protect people in their homes: people who bought or rented homes in good faith, whose safety continues to be threatened by your products and who deserve better from the companies that have exposited their basic need for a home,” he continued. “Those companies who do not share our commitment to righting the wrongs of the past must expect to face commercial consequences.”

Earlier this month, developers that failed to commit legally to remediating their own defective buildings were stripped of the right to start constructing buildings or to get building sign-off. Gove said at the time that he would also look to hold other firms, such as construction product manufactures and overseas-based developers, to account as well.

Construction News asked DLUHC whether the “commercial consequences” mirror those facing the developers that failed to sign the remediation contract, but DLUHC declined to comment further.

Kingspan said it would “pay our share of remediation costs where we have responsibility for the inappropriate use of K15 in a high-rise residential building”, and where testing cannot prove that it is safe on that particular building.

It argued that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry demonstrated Arconic’s cladding panels were “the entirely dominant factor” in the speed and nature of the fire, rather than the combustibility of the insulation. But the inquiry also concluded that insulation firms were partially responsible for the fire’s spread.

“Kingspan did not supply or recommend the use of its K15 insulation on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, which made up only 5 per cent of the insulation layer purchased for use and was entirely inappropriate for use in a cladding system with a polyethylene-cored ACM,” Kingspan added.

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