Grenfell Tower Fire: Final Report – Design, Construction and Refurbishment

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, a report detailing principles and recommendations for the new regulatory framework has been produced. A set of rigorous and demanding duty holder roles and responsibilities has been recommended to ensure a stronger focus on building safety. These roles and responsibilities will broadly align with those set out in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. In addition a wider and more flexible range of enforcement powers will be created to focus incentives on the creation of reliably safe buildings from the outset. This also means more serious penalties for those who choose to “game the system” and place residents at risk.

Building Safety During the Occupation Phase

A clear and identifiable duty holder with responsibility for building safety of the whole building has been recommended. The duty holder during occupation and maintenance should maintain the fire and structural safety of the whole building, and identify and make improvements where reasonable and practicable.

It is proposed that the duty holder must nominate a ‘building safety manager’ with the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to assist in discharging their duties and to be available to residents concerned about safety in their building. They will also need to bring in the right additional expertise (if they do not have it) to undertake work such as fire risk assessments.

However, the report identified that fire risk assessments should be undertaken by a competent person (with the right skills, knowledge and experience) appropriate for the complexity of the building. The recommendations identify that the duty holder should set out how they satisfied themselves that the fire risk assessor was competent. A proposed new, coherent competence framework, will be one way in which the duty holder will be able satisfy themselves.

Residents’ Voices and Raising Concerns

It is proposed that reassurance and recourse for residents of all tenures is implemented by providing greater transparency of information on building safety and better involvement in decision-making, through the support of residents associations and tenant panels; and a no- risk route for residents to escalate concerns on fire safety where necessary, through an independent statutory body that can provide support where service providers have failed to take action.

Conclusions

There will be much debate initiated by the proposals and there have been many criticisms that they do not go far enough, particularly in relation to the prohibition of flammable and combustible claddings on high rise buildings. Within hours of the publication of the report, the Government had announced a consultation on introducing such a ban, despite this not being a recommendation of the report.

Significant regulatory change is inevitable in the months and years to come. In the interim period, those managing and operating buildings should rigorously maintain and apply good fire precautions and procedures, ensure fire risk assessments are up to date and the findings are implemented and staff are well trained.

Where building alterations are made, or new buildings are being planned and specified, then those involved with the fire strategy should be challenged with making sure it is robust and, in particular, robustly implemented. This should involve third party inspections during construction by independent specialists, particularly of fire stopping and fire door installation. Our earlier briefing, issued shortly after the incident, predicted that combustible claddings on high rise buildings were likely to be banned in the future and the Government action seems to bring this prediction nearer to fruition. If you are involved in specifying a new building, particularly a high rise building, you would be wise to insist on totally non-combustible cladding in order to provide a safe building, to minimise future insurance costs and to avoid the possibility of retrospective and costly legal changes applied to existing buildings.

Disclaimer: This information is provided by way of general guidance for Quadriga contacts only and is based on our current understanding of the situation and the typical premises that may be affected. Where specific legal or professional advice is required relating to a particular premises and activities, please contact Quadriga by calling on 0118 929 9920 or clicking here to contact us.

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