“We are safer on site but we are all trying to rush everything”
Building control officer accepts ‘failings’ (CM, 2 October)
It is regrettable that government policies saw the repealing of the London Building Acts, replacing them with the discredited and “not fit for purpose” Building Regulations, and abolishing London’s first-class and properly resourced building control regime – then part of the Greater London Council’s (GLC) architects department.
I worked for the GLC in building control from 1974 until its abolition in 1986 and I firmly believe that if that regime were still in existence neither the Grenfell fire nor anything like it could have occurred in London.
It is not just this incident that shows the failings in the current state of the industry. There are failings all round, and that includes: education; professional and trade bodies; main contractors; subcontractors; manufacturers; and suppliers – as well as the governments who set these regulations.
We are safer on site but we are seemingly all trying to rush everything. Why can’t we all be given time to do the job of construction properly – from the design right through to the occupation – rather than constantly being pushed by money?
Over the years, the Building Regulations as well as the guidance relating to them has bloated to an unmanageable level for any one person, including the building control officers. They are expected to be jacks of all trades as well as a master of them all.
An unrealistic level of scrutiny is expected from inspectors as the police of the building industry. After all, you don’t blame the police if they drive past a burglary – you wouldn’t expect them to check every house just in case.
Fitter had ‘no guidance’ on cavity barrier installation (CM, 30 September)
When I read “poorly fitting and cut cavity barriers with rough edges and gaps, or cavity barriers cut around cladding rails, creating gaps” described as poor workmanship, I do wonder about the expectations of site workers by specifiers.
Don’t think I’m defending shoddy work and lack of training and instruction – I’m not. However, we have to be realistic about the calibre of the workforce, and the conditions we are asking them to produce perfect workmanship in. It’s not easy working 20m up on a mast climber in the wind and rain.
Clerk of works criticises ‘mixed-up’ construction (CM, 28 September)
Back in the day, we operated a test and inspection (T&I) process whereby any work that was to be subsequently covered (foundations, ground floor construction, drainage, first fix items etc) was inspected on site and only when it had passed inspection would the follow-up work be completed. As time went on, and prices and timescales became tighter, this system was dropped as being too time-consuming and expensive.
Many contractors are now forced to tender for a range of design and build contracts of which they often have little or no understanding. The use of these contracts, where the clients’ representatives look to pass on all responsibilities to the main contractor within an all-embracing package, results in confusion and poor quality work.
25-year-old project manager had no ongoing training (CM, 22 September)
This disaster is a turning point that says “wake up”.We need properly fully trained labour, trades, staff and professionals. We have to stop cutting cost and fees to the bone to enable the industry to function properly.
We are years past this disaster that is a shameful condemnation of the industry and culture from government downwards, yet all anyone seems to be doing is waiting for someone to tell them what to do and arguing if anyone’s life is worth a sprinkler system in sleeping accommodation. It is.
Rydon struggled to ‘drum up interest’ from cladding firms (CM, 8 September)
As we hear more in this inquiry, I have to say the events are entirely familiar from the last 15 years in construction: a rushed tender process with limited design information leading to mistakes and omissions; the successful contractor often being the one who’s made the biggest error in their tender; specifications that aren’t fully understood, often cut and paste from previous projects; building control competing on the lowest-fee basis; a turnover in staff, especially at site level; a lack of suitable training on the technical aspects; a rush to promote people due to a skills shortage.
It’s an industry that’s been in a race to the bottom for a long while and unfortunately Grenfell shows the worst possible consequences of that.