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Building a Safer Future – the Final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt

The European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) welcomes Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report of her independent review of the UK Building Regulations and Fire Safety. This is completely separate from the independent judicial review into the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy that continues and has already begun taking evidence from interested parties.

As EuroFSA had said in its submission, the report found that the ‘current system of building regulations and fire safety is not fit for purpose and that a cultural change is required to support the delivery of buildings that are safe now and in the future’.

The report identified:

  • a lack of clarity in responsibilities;
  • regulations and guidance that is ambiguous and inconsistent;
  • weak compliance processes;
  • a lack of competence;
  • failures in product testing; and
  • residents’ concerns going unheard.

A integrated package of recommendations are made to create a simple effective mechanism for driving building safety, stronger oversight with sanctions for poor performance and reasserting the role of residents. It proposes placing responsibilities on those who procure, design, create and maintain buildings, on Government to set clear outcome-based guidance, a new regulator to act to ensure standards are met and residents’ voices to be heard.

EuroFSA submitted that building regulations and guidance where inadequate and out of date with no effective means of ensuring compliance. It was unacceptable that they were not frequently reviewed particularly in the light of knowledge gained from real fire events. It is pleased that key outcomes include the creation of a new multi-disciplined ‘Joint Competency Authority (JCA)’ to oversee better management of safety risks underpinned by  more rigorous enforcement powers to focus incentives on safety from the outset. The current testing regime is to be replaced with something promised to be far more effective that will be kept under with periodic review with more effective market surveillance.

The report found that existing systems allowed a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of safety with the primary motivation being to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible. The existing arrangements did not adequately take account of the whole life use of a building and the fact it was likely to undergo many transformations over its life. Conflicting priorities from government guidance meant fire safety could be compromised.

Whilst EuroFSA is able to welcome the report the question of whether it will have an impact remain unanswered. Dame Judith is quite clear: ‘…[the recommendations] in isolation they will fail to achieve the systemic change sought. The framework operates as a mutually reinforcing package and requires the implementation of its interdependent components in order for this to be achieved’. To be effective, therefore, requires government to act on the whole report.

It must be remembered, this independent review was commissioned in the shadow of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower where so many lives were lost. EuroFSA awaits a positive response from the UK government.

The full report can be found here.

 

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