The interim report from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has found 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 effectiveness of the regulators.
The report says that the key reasons for this are: Current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear. This can lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings; 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 behaviours; The route for residents to escalate concerns is unclear and inadequate; and the system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is not clear.
Peter Caplehorn, Construction Products Association deputy chief executive and policy director, said: “The construction products industry has a vital role to play, leading a culture change – and in Dame Judith’s own words – ensuring products are not only properly tested and certified but also marketed in a way that is easy to interpret.
“Safety in buildings will always be our top priority and following such a tragic event like Grenfell we are right to look at the current system for fire safety in buildings and ask if it is fit for purpose. Dame Judith recognises that buildings are not currently inherently unsafe but certain shortcomings need to be addressed that cover the complete spectrum, from project initiation through design, procurement and construction, to occupation and use.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “We welcome the interim findings of the Hackitt Review which make clear that there is much for the construction industry and its regulators to address post-Grenfell. The FMB submitted a detailed response to the Review and many of our points have been reflected in its initial findings. In particular, we welcome the acknowledgement that although some safety-critical tradespeople, for example gas engineers, must be registered for different types of work, others do not have such requirements. We are also pleased that the Review has recognised that current Building Regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear.”