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Grenfell Tower Panels Found in US Structures

Monday, July 24, 2017

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Brochures from Pittsburgh-based manufacturer Arconic reveal that the same panels used on London’s Grenfell Tower have been used on U.S. structures, such as a professional sports stadium and a high-rise luxury hotel.

According to the Associated Press, the promotional brochures for the Reynobond PE panels boasted the visual effect the panels had on FirstEnergy Stadium, in Cleveland, and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor hotel.

The Panels

Those panels are the same ones that were used on the Grenfell Tower’s renovation and are suspected of helping the fatal June 14 fire spread quickly up the 24-story building.

The aluminum-composite panels have a plastic polyethylene core. They are intended to improve building appearance and efficiency, though they are not recommended for use in buildings taller than 40 feet because of their combustibility.

The report notes, though, that short of testing the panels, it’s impossible to know for sure that the Reynobond PE is in fact on these two structures in particular because records either don’t indicate the cladding used or have since been destroyed. Some experts, however, say it’s worth looking into because of the buildings’ size and how many people they hold.

“If the materials used on a building appear similar to a known hazard, people need to know that,” said Douglas Evans, a fire-protection engineer from Las Vegas. “Anybody who is inside of these buildings has a right to know.”

Safety

No one has declared these buildings unsafe, and Cleveland’s chief building official, Thomas Vanover, pointed out in a news conference after the AP’s story was published that the rest of the cladding system at FirstEnergy is entirely different than what was used at Grenfell.

Arconic

The aluminum-composite panels have a plastic polyethylene core. Their intended to improve building appearance and efficiency, though they are not recommended for use in buildings above 40 feet because of their combustibility.

"The panels are not what caused the tragedy," he said. "The panels were part of a system that caused a tragedy."

Arconic’s own statement on the fire echoed that line:

Arconic supplied one of our products, Reynobond PE, to our customer, a fabricator, which used the product as one component of the overall cladding system on Grenfell Tower. The fabricator supplied its portion of the cladding system to the facade installer, who delivered it to the general contractor. The other parts of the cladding system, including the insulation, were supplied by other parties. We were not involved in the installation of the system, nor did we have a role in any other aspect of the building’s refurbishment or original design.

Vanover noted that the panels in Cleveland are not backed with any kind of insulation material, but rather mounted onto concrete as a trim covering the structure.

The Marriott is testing the panels, however, and results are expected as early as next week. Spokesperson Jeff Flaherty did say that the hotel passed building inspection in 2001 and that its fire and life safety systems meet all code requirements.

Reynobond PE is also reported to have been used on a high school in Anchorage, Alaska; the Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, in Dallas; Early Childhood Development Centers, in Detroit; and the top two floors of a nine-story office building, in Denver.

   

Tagged categories: Aluminum; Cladding; Fire; Hotels; Paneling; Polyethylene; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

Comment from Phil Kabza, (7/24/2017, 8:19 AM)

There is reason to be concerned that these types of attention-grabing articles will continue to appear and be misread by readers who do not understand the nature of the Grenfell disaster. These panels are common to the point of being generic products. In addition to Reynobond, Alcoa, Mitsubishi Alpolic, 3A Composites Alucobond, Centria, Firestone, and a half-dozen other manufacturers produce or produced the sheet goods, and dozens of fabricator/manufacturers have formed the panels used on thousands of buildings in the US in the past 30 years. These buildings are not necessarily at risk for fire hazard. A few may be because of improper core type specifications, or improper design or lack of construction of proper draft stops within the assemblies. ACM panels are and should continue to be very useful products for building cladding applications. They need to be selected, specified, and procured by knowledgeable people, and the work needs to be carried out and inspected properly, just like any other assemblies in our buildings.


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