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Hackitt slams 'race to bottom' on building safety

17 May 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

The final report from Dame Judith Hackitt's independent review into Building Regulations and fire safety has uncovered further "deep flaws" in the current system, and recommended a "radical rethink" including a new body to regulate the construction industry.

Perhaps surprisingly, she did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding, despite calls from some architects, construction firms and Grenfell survivors. Hackitt said: "This is most definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, nor looked to other sectors."

Examining the circumstances that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which 71 people died, Hackitt identified ignorance of regulations and guidance, a motivation to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible, lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities, and inadequate regulation as the key issues.

She warned that those factors had combined to create a culture issue across the sector, which she described as a "race to the bottom".

"There is insufficient focus on delivering the best quality building possible, in order to ensure that residents are safe and feel safe," she said.

"We need to adopt a very different approach to the regulatory framework covering the design, construction and maintenance of high-rise residential buildings which recognises that they are complex systems where the actions of many different people can compromise the integrity of that system."

The report's key recommendations are:

 

 

Hackitt said the construction industry "stands out" from every other sector she has looked at "in its slow adoption of traceability and quality assurance techniques".

"These are widespread elsewhere and the technology is readily available," she said.

She warned that legislation would be required to implement the "systemic changes" that she has recommended and that it would therefore take time.

She also said there was a "moral obligation" to apply the principles set out in her report to the existing stock of complex high-rise residential buildings, as well as new builds that would take time as well as having a cost attached to it.

However, it was "beyond the scope" of the report to determine how remedial work would be funded.

And she emphasised the need for a continued spirit of collaboration and partnership in a sector that is "excessively fragmented".

Hackitt’s recommendations:

Regulatory

 

 

Building safety during design, construction and refurbishment

 

 

Building safety during occupation

 

 

Improved levels of competence

 

 

Construction products regime

 

 

Hackitt's report added that while the recommendations in the report relate predominantly to HRRBs, "the review believes that there would be merit in certain aspects of the new regulatory framework applying to a wider set of buildings".

Comments

Dame Hackitt is right not to call for a ban on flammable cladding materials- and is right to call on construction professionals (architects, engineers, surveyors and constructors) to become proficient at designing and specifying assemblies that perform as intended and required under Code. As Chris Blythe also rightly points out, these construction professionals must 'up their game' and architects in particular need to return to the control centre of the procurement process and take responsibility for the assembly design process.

Andrew Gibb, 21 May 2018

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