Hackitt review - the interim report following Grenfell is published

Greg

Greg Davies
Director of Market Development, Assurity Consulting
20th December 2017

The key findings of the report state:

“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 report also highlights that “It became clear quite early in the review that there is a need for significant improvement in the current system in a number of areas. These relate to matters of:

  • regulation and guidance;
  • roles and responsibilities;
  • competence;
  • process, compliance and enforcement;
  • residents’ voice and raising concerns; and
  • quality assurance and products.”

Each of these points are reflected on in detail and there are clearly lessons to be learnt.

The main recommendations to come from this initial review are: 

“A. The government should consider how the suite of Approved Documents could be structured and ordered to provide a more streamlined, holistic view while retaining the right level of relevant technical detail, with input from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. Given that reframing the suite of guidance may take some time, in the meantime I would ask the government to consider any presentational changes that will improve the clarity of Approved Document B as an interim measure.”

“B. There is a need to be certain that those working on the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex and high-risk buildings are suitably qualified. The professional and accreditation bodies have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of establishing a robust, comprehensive and coherent system covering all disciplines for work on such buildings. If they are able to come together and develop a joined up system covering all levels of qualification in relevant disciplines, this will provide the framework for regulation to mandate the use of suitable, qualified professionals who can demonstrate that their skills are up to date. This should cover as a minimum:

  • those installing and maintaining fire safety systems and other safety-critical systems;
  • fire engineers;
  • fire risk assessors;
  • fire safety enforcing officers; and
  • building control inspectors.


I would ask these bodies to work together now to propose such a system as soon as practicable. I will launch this work at a summit in early 2018.”

“C. Consultation with the fire and rescue services is required on plans for buildings that are covered by the Fire Safety Order, but does not work as intended. Consultation by building control bodies and by those commissioning or designing buildings should take place early in the process and fire and rescue service advice should be fully taken into account. The aim should be to secure their input and support at the earliest stage possible so that fire safety can be fully designed in.”

“D. Building developers need to ensure that there is a formal review and handover process ahead of occupation of any part of a new high-rise residential building. While there are legitimate reasons to allow occupation in a phased way, the practice of allowing occupancy of buildings without proper review and handover presents barriers to the implementation of any remedial measures identified as part of the completion process.”

“E. There is a need for building control bodies to do more to assure that fire safety information for a building is provided by the person completing the building work to the responsible person for the building in occupation. Given the importance of such information for ongoing maintenance and fire risk assessment, proof should be sought that it has been transferred.”

“F. It is currently the case under the Fire Safety Order that fire risk assessments for high-rise residential buildings must be carried out ‘regularly’. It is recommended that the responsible person ensures these are undertaken at least annually and when any significant alterations are made to the building. These risk assessments should be shared in an accessible way with the residents who live within that building and notified to the fire and rescue service.”

“G. The government should significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding and other systems to ensure that they are only used where appropriate and with sufficient, relevant test evidence. Those undertaking desktop studies must be able to demonstrate suitable competence. The industry should ensure that their use of desktop studies is responsible and in line with this aim.”

As expressed by a number of my colleagues in our fire team, the fact that what is designed can end up as something very different through construction and operation - and that the effect of these changes are not adequately captured - is also highlighted.  For me the most compelling lesson is the need for better communication, from design to occupation and in building structure as well as fire management process.