The interim report from the Hackitt Review was published on Monday, December 18. The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety is being led by Dame Judith Hackitt. Its purpose is to make recommendations that will ensure we have a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future. It is examining the building and fire safety regulatory system, with a focus on high-rise residential buildings.
Interim report key findings:
The work of the review to date 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 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 system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is not clear.
Direction of travel
The Independent Review will now undertake its second phase of work and publish an initial report
in spring 2018. This will include targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders. This interim report sets the direction for change that will underpin that report and covers six broad areas.
Regulation and guidance
- The rules for ensuring high-rise and other complex buildings are built safe and remain safe should be more risk-based and proportionate. Those responsible for high-risk and complex buildings should be held to account to a higher degree.
- There should be a shift away from government solely holding the burden for updating and maintaining guidance, towards greater responsibility for the sector to specify solutions which meet the government’s functional standards.
- Regulations and guidance must be simplified and unambiguous.
Roles and responsibilities
- Primary responsibility for ensuring that buildings are fit for purpose must rest with those who commission, design and build the project. Responsibility and accountability must rest with clearly identifiable senior individuals and not be wholly dispersed through the supply chain.
- Roles and responsibilities across the whole life cycle of a building must be clearer.
- There is a need to raise levels of competence and establish formal accreditation of those engaged in the fire prevention aspects of the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of high-rise residential and complex buildings.
Process, compliance and enforcement
- There needs to be a golden thread for high-rise residential and complex buildings so that the original design intent, and any subsequent changes or refurbishment, are recorded and properly reviewed, along with regular reviews of overall building integrity.
- There is a need for stronger and more effective enforcement activity, backed up with sufficiently powerful sanctions for the few who do not follow the rules.
Quality assurance and products
- Products must be properly tested and certified and there is a need to ensure oversight of the quality of installation work.
- Marketing of products must be clear and easy to interpret.
In summary, this is a call to action for an entire industry and those parts of government that oversee it. True and lasting change will require a universal shift in culture. The industry has shown this is possible in the way the health and safety of construction workers has seen a positive transformation in culture and practice over the last decade. This change needs to start now.
A summit will be called in early 2018 with key stakeholders to discuss taking this work forward.
The initial findings of the Hackitt Review offer a positive step forward to address a multitude of failings within the construction industry and among its regulators, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
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. We look forward to working with the Government and our industry colleagues to address the areas of failure so such an incident is never allowed to happen again.”
Peter Caplehorn, CPA deputy chief executive and policy director, said: “Dame Judith’s Independent Review is right to question how the construction sector can address the effectiveness of regulations and regulators. 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.
“We are pleased to have been able to contribute to the Review and look forward to leading our sector to help deliver tangible results.”