Current building and fire regulations for tower blocks in UK not fit for purpose

A universal shift in culture is needed to help people live in high rise tower blocks in the UK believe they are safe as current building and fire regulations are not fit for purpose, according to a new report.

The interim report into the independent review of building regulations and fire safety set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) after the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London says that then whole system allows those who want to take short cuts to do so.

Chair Dame Judith Hackitt is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and the Government to address the shortcomings as quickly as possible.

She says in her interim report that a culture change is required with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built and this needs to be started immediately and there should be a clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to.

‘I have found that the regulatory system for safely designing, constructing and managing buildings is not fit for purpose. The current system is highly complex and there is confusion about the roles and responsibilities at each stage. In many areas there is a lack of competence and accreditation,’ she says.

‘While this does not mean all buildings are unsafe, it does mean we need to build a more effective system for the future. That is why I am today calling for the construction industry, building owners, regulators and Government to come together to identify how to overcome these shortcomings together,’ she adds.

The interim report sets out several broad areas for change including ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous, clarification of roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe and improving levels of competence within the industry.

It also says that there needs to be improvement in the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations, the creation of an effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to and improved testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction.

Dame Judith consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.

‘I have been deeply affected by the residents of high rise buildings I have met and I have learned so much from them. These buildings are their homes and their communities. They are proud of where they live, but their trust in the system has been badly shaken by events of the last few months. We need to rebuild that trust,’ she explained.

The independent review will now undertake its second phase of work including targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders. A summit involving government and representatives from the building industry will take place in the New Year and a final report will be published in the spring of 2018.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the organisation welcomed the interim report. ‘There is much for the construction industry and its regulators to address post-Grenfell. The FMB submitted a detailed response to the review and many of our points have been reflected in its initial findings. We are also pleased that it has recognised that current building regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear. We look forward to working with the Government and our industry colleagues to address the areas of failure so such an incident is never allowed to happen again,’ he pointed out.

‘I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dame Judith Hackitt and the wider review team for the swiftness with which this probing and insightful interim report has been delivered. It’s too often the case that such consultations and inquiries drag on when swift action is required,’ he explained.

‘Here the Hackitt Review has managed to get the balance right by consulting with a broad range of people and organisations but then taking speedy action to reflect and report back. We hope the review team maintains this momentum so we can achieve a safer built environment, and one that always adheres to the highest of standards, as soon as possible,’ he added.