The initial findings of the Hackitt Review offer a positive step forward to address a multitude of failings within the construction industry and among its regulators. The review team has singled out two overarching issues: the effectiveness of the regulations and regulators; and the culture across the construction industry.
The Chair of an independent review into building regulations and fire safety has found that a “universal shift in culture” is required to rebuild trust amongst residents of high-rise buildings and significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured.
Dame Judith Hackitt, who was appointed by government to lead an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell fire, has published her interim findings.
Alongside her interim report, Dame Judith is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far.
The interim report finds 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.
Chair of the review, Dame Judith Hackitt said, “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.
“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.”
The interim report sets out six broad areas for change:
- ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous;
- clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe;
- improving levels of competence within the industry;
- improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations;
- creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to;
- improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction.
Dame Judith has consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.
David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said, “It is of course concerning that Dame Judith has found the whole system of regulation is not fit for purpose, but the analysis seems clear and sensible.
“Meaningful action must now be taken by everyone involved in the construction and management of buildings to radically improve the regulatory system. This includes the establishment of clear lines of responsibility so that in the long term, people will be safer.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said, “In particular, we welcome the acknowledgement that although some safety-critical tradespeople, for example gas engineers, must be registered for different types of work, others do not have such requirements. We are also pleased that the Review 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.”
Lord Porter, Local Government Association Chairman, added, “The government needs to endorse the report’s findings without delay and work with councils and the industry to take the process of reform forward in the way Dame Judith has set out.
“While councils will continue to get on with what they need to do and are ready to play a leading role in making sure a new system of building regulation works, significant funding concerns remain. The Government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.”
Peter Caplehorn, CPA Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director, concluded, “Safety in buildings will always be our top priority and following such a tragic event like Grenfell we are right to look at the current system for fire safety in buildings and ask if it is fit for purpose.
“Dame Judith recognises that buildings are not currently inherently unsafe but certain shortcomings need to be addressed that cover the complete spectrum, from project initiation through design, procurement and construction, to occupation and use.”