The independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was published yesterday and called for an overhaul of building regulations and creating a new culture in design and construction.
The report called for a new regulatory system to be set up around the lifecycle of buildings over 10 storeys, as well as promoting a culture that prioritises safety over lowest cost. But the review did not include recommending a ban on combustible cladding and insulation, despite demands from some quarters including Grenfell Tower survivors and fire safety experts.
Dame Hackitt said ignorance of Building Regulations, lack of clarity of roles and an insistence to drive down price had created a “race to the bottom” in the construction and refurbishment of buildings.
After publication the government then revealed plans to pay at least £400m for the cladding to be replaced on buildings with cladding similar to Grenfell and a consultation on banning combustible cladding and insulation materials on high rise residential buildings.
“The Review has identified systemic failings in the way construction projects are designed, delivered and managed,” said outgoing FIS chief executive David Frise. “We now need to move forward with building regulations that focus on the whole lifecycle of buildings and have a tighter focus on competence and compliance.
“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.”
Ben Jayes, managing director of Vivalda Group said: “We were expecting a far clearer statement from Dame Judith, which would include banning any combustible material on tall buildings. We had also hoped to see sharper teeth when it came to independent building inspection, however this appeared to have been overlooked in favour of tighter regulations outlined in the report.”
Nigel Morrey, technical director at Etex Building Performance, said: “We welcome the Hackitt Review’s calls for more rigorous materials testing as well as the restriction of assessments in lieu of tests, rather than an outright ban. Test data which reflects real conditions should form the bedrock of all construction product development but as the Review concludes, desktop studies can provide a viable route to compliance if used in a responsible and appropriate way by competent people.
“Crucially the new British Standard for evaluating test data must clearly set out the type of evidence required for assessments, using data that mirrors on-site conditions as closely as possible. It also needs to establish clear parameters for ensuring the competence of individuals performing these analyses. Both the government’s consultation on desktop studies and the Hackitt Review reference the importance of ‘competent staff working for an organisation that is accredited’ but in our experience this is not enough. Working for an accredited organisation does not guarantee capability of the individual.
“It is now critical that the assessment process proposed for cladding materials is also applied to other building products. There is a real danger that the industry has one set of rules for cladding systems and a different set for other materials which will only create confusion and an unworkable two-tier system. We need to apply this best practice across the board.”