Independent review criticises Building Regulations
08 January 2018
AN INDEPENDENT review of the Building Regulations has found that the current system for ensuring life safety in high-rise buildings is “not fit for purpose”.
Dame Judith Hackitt, who was appointed by government to lead an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell fire, has published her interim findings on 18 December 2017.
Alongside her interim report, Dame Judith is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far. The interim report finds that:
- An immediate culture change is required with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built;
- The current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose; and
- A clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created
Dame Hackitt said: “I have found that the regulatory system for safely designing, constructing and managing buildings is not fit for purpose. The current system is highly complex and there is confusion about the roles and responsibilities at each stage. In many areas there is a lack of competence and accreditation.
“While this does not mean all buildings are unsafe, it does mean we need to build a more effective system for the future. That is why I am today calling for the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to identify how to overcome these shortcomings together.”
The interim report sets out 6 broad areas for change, which include:
- Ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous;
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe;
- Improving levels of competence within the industry;
- Improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations;
- Creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to; and
- Improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction
Dame Judith has consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.
The Fire Sector Federation broadly endorsed the key findings and recommendations detailed in the interim report. Chairman Paul Fuller said: “The FSF has long expressed concern about the current system of fire safety regulation and enforcement and the clear need to define competency requirements for all professionals involved. We strongly support the call for clearly defined responsibility throughout a building’s lifecycle and for the establishment of formal accreditation and raised levels of competence for all those engaged in fire prevention within the built environment.
“The FSF has been working to develop a broad competency framework and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to develop a robust and coherent system to ensure that a joined-up system for qualification can be established.”
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection also welcomed the findings of the interim report, its chief operating officer Niall Rowan said: ““I am pleased to see that Dame Judith has recognised the poor practices surrounding ‘value engineering’, the lack of proper procedures for handover of fire safety information on completion, and the need to tighten up controls on ‘desktop studies’. She also highlights a need for fire risk assessors to be qualified, and the confusion surrounding the testing, assessment and certification of fire protection products. All issues of great concern for the ASFP.
“To address the competency issue, the ASFP is working with the Institution of Fire Engineers to provide training and competency evaluation for all stakeholders involved in the design, specification, installation and maintenance of passive fire protection. The programme in development will enable trainees to obtain an IFE qualification in passive fire protection.
“Furthermore, working together with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the ASFP has been developing a Plan of Works for Fire. This aims to ensure that there is a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage and a schedule for fire throughout the construction process. The process being developed will include mandatory sign offs as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support adequate fire risk management.
“We hope these initiatives will form useful input to phase two of the review and look forward to working with Dame Judith and all industry stakeholders to a develop a regulatory system that more clearly sets out the requirements, responsibilities and competencies required at each stage throughout the building lifecycle, including changes and refurbishments later in the building’s life.”
A summit involving government and representatives from the building industry will take place in the New Year and a final report will be published in spring 2018.