The current business model for the construction industry has seen some clients and contractors prioritising profit and time-saving measures over the quality and safety of builds. These measures can lead to contractors choosing poor quality materials or sub-standard checks taking place which can pose significant risks to life-safety.
In light of the high-profile failures, notably Grenfell, Dame Judith Hackitt DBE was commissioned to produce an Independent Review of Building Regulation and Fire Safety. The Review provided 53 recommendations to establish a new regulatory framework and a proposal for a new Building Safety Regulator. Subsequently, the government has agreed to implement the recommendations and has proposed new legislation to ensure high risk residential buildings (HRRBs) owners and developers prioritise high quality and safe buildings over time and cost.
The government have established a Building Safety Programme to ensure that residents of HRRBs are safe now and in the future. The programme of work has come with the ongoing replacement of cladding, a ban on combustible materials, testing of fire doors and a review of competencies.
We are supportive of all the recommendations presented in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulation and Fire Safety. Our members have been at the forefront of helping to advise on improvements that can be made to the regulatory system to ensure life safety is paramount in HRRBs and other buildings.
Following the review and the incident at Grenfell, it was revealed that combustible cladding had been fitted to hundreds of buildings to cut costs. Although not the sole reason for the fire, the decisions to use the cladding has led to a significant number of buildings, and therefore their tenants, being left at risk. Unfortunately, progress in remedial work has been slow and hundreds of buildings are still considered unsafe, meaning thousands of people are living in unsafe buildings, which is a huge cause for concern.
It is vital that all buildings are safe for their intended users, which is why we have been active in driving the reform of the building safety system, including representation on several working groups including the Industry Response Group (IRG) and the Competency Steering Group (CSG). In 2019, the Competence Steering Group (CSG) published its interim report Raising the Bar which set out measures to improve the competence of those who design, construct, inspect, maintain and operate higher risk residential buildings.
To help change the culture of sacrificing safe and good quality buildings for profit and time savings, we realise more information and guidance needs to be out there for the industry to use. We will continue to work alongside the Government in ensuring buildings are safe for occupancy as well as promote the importance of quality and safety to our members.
We also firmly support the view that all new and converted residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, student accommodation, schools and care home buildings of 11m in height or above should be required to have sprinklers fitted. We also support the installation of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) including sprinklers below this height on a case by case basis of risk.
Although the inquiry into building regulations and fire safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt DBE was commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, the findings of the report pointed to wider failures in the industry characterised by ignorance, indifference, a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities and inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement. We are supportive of the recommendations made in the report and will continue to work with the relevant groups to ensure buildings are safe for all.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has established the Building Safety Programme which covers high-rise residential buildings to ensure the safety of residents. The programme is working with a range of independent expert advisors as well as building owners, housing providers, schools, hospitals and the construction industry to take immediate steps to ensure their residents’ safety and making decisions on any remedial work.
In March 2019, alongside the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) we called on the government to revise sprinkler requirements. Ensuring that all new and converted buildings 11m in height or above should require the installation of sprinklers. Read more here.