As a result of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the concerns about safety in high-rise residential buildings, the government asked Dame Judith Hackett to conduct an independent forward-looking review of building regulations and fire safety. The review is running in parallel with the work of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and whilst it has a particular focus on high-rise residential buildings it is also examining the issues more widely. The review aims to make recommendations that will ensure there is a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future and provide further assurance to residents that the buildings they live in are safe and will remain so.
An Interim Report was published at the end of 2017. The key finding was that:
the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose. This applies throughout the life cycle of a building, both during construction and occupation, and is a problem connected both to the culture of the construction industry and the culture of the regulators.
The key reasons being:
- Regulation and Guidance: current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear
- Roles and Responsibilities: clarity of roles across design, construction and maintenance is poor
- Competence: despite many who demonstrate good practice, the means of assessing and ensuring competence of key people throughout the system is inadequate
- Process, compliance and enforcement: compliance, enforcement and sanctions processes are too weak. What is being designed is not what is being built and there is lack of robust change control
- Residents' voice and raising concerns: the route for residents to escalate concerns is unclear and inadequate
- Quality assurance and products: the system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is not clear.
The review recognises that true and lasting change will require a universal shift in culture. The property industry has welcomed the report and its recognition that not only is there is a lack of rigid, clear and simple building regulations, but also the importance of the "golden thread" of original design intent. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has stated that its own Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety strongly recommends that the final review should require that a named person or company should hold responsibility for the oversight of fire safety in the design and construction of a building project. The second phase of the review is now underway and a second report is expected to be published soon.
We are presenting a client seminar on Fire Safety in early May. Please email Britney Sullivan if you would like to attend or would like more information.