Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire SafetyDecember 22, 2017 12:55 pm
Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower Dame Judith Hackitt was appointed by the government to lead an independent review into Building Regulations and fire safety that was to run alongside the public enquiry chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick. Dame Judith’s review is separate from the public inquiry and has been tasked with reviewing the current regulations and producing recommendations sooner than is possible with the public enquiry.
The interim report is “a call to action for an entire industry and those parts of government that oversee it”, and “true and lasting change will require a universal shift in culture”
This indicates that Dame Hackitt is determined to drive through changes to the way fire safety is regulated within England and Wales, and is not prepared to allow the review to gather dust as has happened to previous reports into fatal fires in recent years.
An interim report has been produced, which precedes the full report that is due in spring 2018 and provides some key findings and direction of travel for the second phase of the review. Click here to view on gov.uk site.
The work of the review to date has found that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose, both during construction and occupation of the building. The key reasons for this assessment have been identified as follows:
Current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear, and this can lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings
The clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor. Even where there are requirements for key activities to take place across design, construction and maintenance, it is not always clear who has responsibility for making it happen.
Despite many who demonstrate good practice, the means of assessing and ensuring the competency of key people throughout the system is inadequate. There is often no differentiation in competency requirements for those working on high-rise and complex buildings.
Compliance, enforcement and sanctions processes are too weak. What is being designed is not what is being built and there is a lack of robust change control. The lack of meaningful sanctions does not drive the right behaviors.
The route for residents to escalate concerns is unclear and inadequate.
The system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is not clear.
Direction of Travel
The interim report provides a summary of what has been learned so far and the proposed direction of travel for the next phase of work that covers the following six broad areas:
Regulations and Guidance
The rules for ensuring high-rise and complex buildings are built safe and remain safe should be more risk based and proportionate. Those responsible for these buildings should be held to a higher account than people involved in the design, construction and use of simpler buildings.
There should be a shift away from government holding the burden for updating and maintaining guidance, with the construction sector producing solutions which meet the governments functional requirements.
Regulations and guidance must be simplified and unambiguous.
Roles & Responsibilities
Primary responsibility for ensuring that buildings are fit for purpose must rest with those who commission, design and build the project. These should be clearly identified senior individuals and not be dispersed through the supply chain.
Roles and responsibilities across the whole life cycle of a building should be considered.
There is a need to raise competence and establish formal accreditation of those engaged in the fire prevention aspects of the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of high-rise and complex buildings.
Process, compliance and enforcement
The review calls for a “golden thread” for high-rise and complex buildings so the original design intent is not diluted through design development, construction and use of the building.
There is a need for stronger and more effective enforcement activity, backed up with sufficiently powerful sanctions.
Residents voice and raising concerns
Residents need to be reassured that an effective system is in place to maintain safety in their homes.
There must be clear, quick and effective route for residents concerns to be addressed.
Quality assurance and products
Products must be properly tested and certified and there is a need to ensure the quality of installation.
Marketing of products for use must be clear and easy to interpret.
The report identifies that it is possible to change ingrained culture, citing the way the health and safety of construction workers has seen a positive transformation in culture and practice over the past decade.
“Changes to the regulatory regime will help, but on their own will not be sufficient unless we can change the culture away from one of doing the minimum required for compliance, to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the life cycle of a building,” Dame Judith said.
The implementing of any recommendation will alter the style of building regulation to make it more like health and safety law. Dame Judith is a former chair of the Health and Safety Executive, and lessons gained from implementing the CDM Regulations may well be used to frame any changes to fire regulations.
UK secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, confirmed that the government accepted all of the recommendations made in Dame Judith’s interim report.
The full report is due to be published in spring 2018.
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