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Final Hackitt Review demands 'fundamental reform'

Industry has responded to the findings of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, as Dame Judith Hackitt declares that fundamental reform is needed to improve building safety and rebuild trust among high-rise building residents.

The report argues that  a new regulatory framework for higher-risk residential buildings is needed to improve building safety and ensure that residents are safe.

Crucially, the construction industry will be required to take responsibility for the delivery of safe buildings, rather than looking to others to tell them what is or is not acceptable.

Dame Judith Hackitt was appointed by the Government to lead the review following the system failures revealed by testing which was carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017.

Dame Judith Hackitt says: “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 on-going management of high rise residential buildings.”

The final report sets out an ambitious vision for a new framework to improve standards for both new and existing buildings. It is anticipated that many of the ideas proposed could be applied to a wider range of buildings.

Recommendations include a call for a less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator; clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process and during occupation, to ensure real accountability; residents to be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home; a more rigorous and transparent product testing regime and more responsible marketing; and for industry to take the lead in strengthening competence of all those involved in building work, and to establish an oversight body.

Many from within the sector have already called for fundamental change, and industry has welcomed the final Review.

David Frise, chief executive at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said: “Dame Judith’s team spotted right at the start that it was not the building regulations themselves, but how they were applied and enforced that allowed a culture to develop, which led to the Grenfell tragedy. Banning cladding would not move that issue forward – it was the way in which the refurbishment of the tower was managed and delivered, as a whole, that should face scrutiny.”

Peter Caplehorn, Construction Products Association deputy chief executive stated: “The recommendations’ emphasis on creating a digital record of a construction project will go a long way to addressing the impact of product substitution and value engineering, quality of training and poor installations.

“The Construction Products Association fully supports the Review’s recommendations and looks forward to continuing its work with government, members and the construction industry to roll out the implementation programme.”

CIBSE had a similarly positive response: “The Review brings a welcome focus on the need to improve the competence of those in the construction and fire safety sectors and for a more robust system of oversight. The commitment to produce a clearer package of regulations and guidance that is simpler to navigate is also very welcome.”

ECA director of technical, and head of FSA, Steve Martin, added: “ECA and FSA are pleased that the independent Hackitt Review broadly agreed with many of the recommendations we made during the consultation. We will continue to work closely with government and industry to achieve the broad aims of the Review, and to deliver a holistic approach to fire safety training and regulation.”

Some, however, felt that the final Review should have gone further in its recommendations.

Navin Shah of the London Assembly Planning Committee said: “It is very disappointing that this review of building and fire regulations has not recommended sprinklers or other similar systems to be made mandatory in all buildings above 18 metres.

“The fire commissioner said introducing sprinklers in this way is a “no-brainer”, so it is deeply concerning that the Government continues to overlook the seriousness of this issue.”

Mark Larden, UK managing director of Geberit, echoed these concerns: “It is disappointing that there were no recommendations made around the installation of fire safety and suppression systems, such as sprinklers, in new or existing buildings – particularly existing tower blocks.

“Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, has already given her support to retrofitting and it is now easier, quicker and less disruptive than ever before to retrospectively install sprinkler systems into existing properties. 

“By breaking down the barriers to retrofit installations, the fire sprinkler industry is already facilitating safer homes. It is disappointing that these benefits are not being taken advantage of through mandatory installations.”

The full report, published on Thursday May 17, can be accessed online here.

 

17 May 2018

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