Dame Judith Hackitt published her interim report of building regulations etc. admirably quickly in December 2017. It was damning:
'This tragic incident should not have happened in our country in the 21st century. We now all have the opportunity to respond in a way that will lead to lasting change that makes people safer in the future. I have seen the improvements in safety in the oil and gas industry that followed the Piper Alpha oil production platform disaster in 1988 and I hope this review can have a similar impact.
As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.
I have been shocked by some of the practices I have heard about and I am convinced of the need for a new intelligent system of regulation and enforcement for high-rise and complex buildings which will encourage everyone to do the right thing and will hold to account those who try to cut corners.
[My findings are that]
- a culture change is required - with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built - this change needs to start now
- the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose
- a clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created'
Speaking after the report’s publication, Dame Judith told MPs it was “extraordinary” that although the fire service was consulted over building projects its advice was frequently ignored by contractors and property owners. She said she had been taken aback by the lack of record-keeping around building design and changes in specifications as projects progressed; the absence of a rigorous accreditation system for people in important roles, including engineers and fire safety assessors, and the fact that regular fire safety assessments were required but did not have to be reported to anyone. It was of concern that building materials could be switched for a different product on the basis of a secretive “desktop study” rather than physical fire testing.
Her final report was published in May 2018. Her principal recommendations were that their should be a new regulatory framework
- focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 10 storeys or more in height;
- Create a more simple and effective mechanism for driving building safety
- Provide stronger oversight of dutyholders with incentives for the right behaviours, and effective sanctions for poor performance
- Reassert the role of residents
- Ensure that those who procure, design, create and maintain buildings are responsible for ensuring that those buildings are safe for those who live and work in them.
- Incorporate Government-mandated and clear outcome based requirements for the building safety standards which must be achieved.
- Enable the regulator to hold dutyholders to account, ensure that the standards are met and action taken against those who fail to meet the requirements.
- Enable residents to actively participate in the ongoing safety of the building and recognised by others as having a voice.
- a new Joint Competent Authority comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle ... as well as ...
- a mandatory incident reporting mechanism for dutyholders with concerns about the safety of an HRRB.
Despite being pressed to do so, Dame Judith did not say that flammable cladding should never be used on high rise buildings. She appears to have felt that such prescriptive regulation would not be effective in a fast-changing world. Detailed regulations of this sort would not protect us from catastrophic risk. The next Grenfell will not be caused by cladding. Regulators and others instead need to constantly worry about what else might go wrong. ...
... But the Government announced the same day that it was minded to introduce such a rule.
A consultation document "Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system" was published in June 2019. The document recommended the appointment of dutyholders - those legally responsible for ensuring the building is designed and built to be safe for its residents - and accountable persons - those legally responsible for the fire and structural safety of a building when people are living in it.
Jonathan Evans, for one, was not impressed. He tweeted:
If Hackitt had concluded “hey, just ban combustible external walls and keep photographic construction records of fire-stops/barriers. Job done” it would have been very incriminating, humiliating and have put herself and an army of new fire consultants and surveyors out of a job.
An important thing to note is that Hackitt et al totally refused to look at anything to do with the “design” of buildings and the principles that guide it. My conclusion is that all multi-occupancy dwellings must have: 1. Non-combustible external walls 2. Sprinklers 3, >1 escape
Other information and analysis of the causes etc. of the Grenfell tragedy may be found here.