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Independent review on building regs and fire safety published

17 May 2018

THE INDEPENDENT review into building regulations and fire safety has been published and calls for a “radical rethink” but does not ban the use of combustible materials.

The independent review was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May last July following the Grenfell Tower fire and it has been conducted by EEF chair Dame Judith Hackitt. It looked at current building regulations and fire safety with a particular focus on high rise residential buildings. It will examined the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety, related compliance and enforcement issues and international regulation and experience in this area.

As part of the review, Dame Judith consulted the Buildings Regulations Advisory Committee, which advises the government on changes to building regulations as well as the construction and housing industry, the fire sector, international experts, MPs and the public. The review also worked closely with other government departments and the devolved administrations and consider the implications of changes to the regulatory system on other government objectives.

Dame Hackitt published her interim findings on 18 December 2017 in which she called on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far. 

The interim report identified that the current system of building regulations and fire safety is not fit for purpose and that a culture change is required to support the delivery of buildings that are safe, both now and in the future. 

The final report calls for the creation of a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) to oversee the management of buildings and calls for tougher penalties for those flouting the Building Regualtions. It outlines a new structure for how to manage building safety and calls for more effective testing of products (such as cladding) but does not ban the use of combustible materials. The key recommendations include:

  • A new regulatory framework focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 10 storeys or more in height; 
  • A new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle; 
  • A mandatory incident reporting mechanism for dutyholders with concerns about the safety of a HRBB
  • A set of rigorous and demanding dutyholder roles and responsibilities to ensure a stonrger focus on building safety;
  • A series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight that will require dutyholders to show to the JCA that their plans are detailed and robust;
  • A stronger change control process that will require robust record-keeping by the dutyholder of all changes made to the detailed plans previously signed off by the JCA;
  • A single, more streamlined, regulatory route to oversee building standards as part of the JCA to ensure that regulatory oversight of these buildings is independent from clients, designers and contractors and that enforcement can and does take place where necessary;
  • More rigorous enforcement powers. A wider and more flexible range of powers will be created to focus incentives on the creation of reliably safe buildings from the outset. This also means more serious penalties for those who choose to place residents at risk;
  • Clearer rights and obligations for residents to maintain the fire safety of individual dwellings;
  • A regulator for the whole of the building (the JCA) in relation to fire and structural safety in occupation; and
  • A more effective testing regime for cladding with clearer labelling and product transparency

In her summary, Dame Judith Hackitt said: “The above issues have helped to create a cultural issue across the sector, which can be described as a ‘race to the bottom’ caused either through ignorance, indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice. There is insufficient focus on delivering the best quality building possible, in order to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe.

 “Just as the process of constructing the building itself must be subject to greater scrutiny, the classification and testing of the products need to undergo a radical overhall to be clearer and more proactive.

“The ultimate test of this new framework will be the rebuilding of public confidence in the system. The people who matter most in all of this are the residents of these buildings. The new framework needs to be much more transparent; potential purchasers and tenants need to have clear sight of the true condition of the space they are buying and the integrity of the building system they will be part of.”

“One of the greatest concerns which has been expressed to me is whether there is the political will to achieve radical and lasting change. I believe that we have a real opportunity to do this, and to create a system in which everyone will have greater confidence.”

The review had received criticism for not being inclusive of some key associations in the fire sector. In February, the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group revealed that it been excluded from being part of key advisory groups within the review.

You can read the report in full by clicking HERE.