A new regulatory framework is needed to improve safety in higher-risk residential buildings, an independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt has found.
Dame Judith was appointed by Government to lead the review of building regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and her findings outline the need for fundamental reform to improve building safety and to rebuild trust among residents of high-rise buildings.
At the heart of the new system will be a requirement for the construction industry to take responsibility for the delivery of safe buildings, rather than looking to others to tell them what is or is not acceptable.
“This is a systemic problem,” said Dame Judith. “The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what, and there is inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement.
“Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes.
“The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and ongoing management of high-rise residential buildings.”
Building on her interim report, which found that the current system of building and fire safety is not fit for purpose, setting out six key areas for further work, Dame Judith’s final report finds that a new regulatory framework for higher-risk residential buildings is required to improve building safety and ensure that residents are safe.
It sets out a vision for a new framework which will improve standards for new and existing buildings. Many of the ideas proposed could be applied to a wider range of buildings and aim to drive change more broadly.
The report makes recommendations relating to:
- a less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator that can drive the right behaviours
- clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process and during occupation, to ensure real accountability for building safety
- residents to be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home and listened to if they have concerns
- a more rigorous and transparent product testing regime and a more responsible marketing regime
- industry to lead on strengthening competence of all those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body
Dame Judith is calling on the government to set out a clear plan for implementation and for industry and regulators to start ‘living’ the changes now.
The report’s recommendations have been welcomed by the British Woodworking Federation, whose members manufacture around three million fire doors in the UK each year, and its CEO Iain McIlwee is urging Government to crack on with embracing them as soon as practicable.
“Tightening and clarifying regulation, enforcement, responsibility and control processes is long overdue,” he said. “The report recognises the importance of duty holders, competence, the need to align Construction Design and Management Regulations and establishing a Joint Competent Authority to manage and enforce.
“We also welcome the guidance note issued yesterday by MHCLG that encouraged that there is an emphatic endorsement that UCAS accredited third party certification of product and competence of installation, inspection is picked up as a priority – this is fundamental to safety reform. This is again mirrored by Dame Judith and hopefully this guidance is evidence that Government does intend to act fast. The report is not the end, it is the beginning and we need the dots to be joined up and good guidance is embraced by robust regulation.”
McIlwee expressed reservations about recent announcements from the Prime Minister and said that there seemed to be little recognition of the full scale of the problem.
While he acknowledged that the cladding was “a major reason the Grenfell fire turned from a potentially minor incident into a tragedy” the cladding and external envelope is only part of the story, he said.
The condition and performance of the fire doors has also been highlighted as a major concern and more detailed advice issued but it is just the tip of the iceberg said McIlwee.
“For years, weak and fragmented legislation, combined with poor skills and control in construction and maintenance have undermined installation and failed to address inadequacies in inspection and maintenance regimes,” he said. “We believe that there is a very deep-rooted problem and that many fire doors would struggle to halt the spread of major fire. It is now vitally important that we reset the clock.
“We believe that, alongside a greater focus on fire safety and fire doors, a new financial mechanism is needed to enable local authorities, housing associations and others to access the funds required to upgrade safety recommendations that will emanate from the Risk Assessments that are being demanded. It is essential that we see the Treasury making an allocation for this too.”
BWF is campaigning for the creation of a Building Safety Fund to support housing associations and local authorities with the associated costs.
Picture – Guido van Nispen (Creative Commons) – http://bit.ly/2wRfccv