Grenfell Tower Fire: Final Report of Building Regulations and Fire Safety “Building a Safer Future.”

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 in which 72 people died, Dame Judith Hackett, a former Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was asked by the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Home Secretary to conduct an Independent Review of the Building Regulations and Fire Safety with a particular focus on their application to high rise buildings.

The interim report, published in December 2017, described how the regulatory system covering high-rise and complex buildings was not fit for purpose and during the intervening period, further evidence has been seen confirming there are deep flaws in the current system. The final report details the principles and recommendations for the new regulatory framework with an objective to drive real culture change and the right behaviors.

A brief summary of the recommendations for the new framework is detailed below, including the possible implications this may have for our clients. The full final report can be found here.

Key Parameters of the New Regulatory Framework 

The proposed new regulatory framework focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are ten storeys or more in height. This is because the likelihood of fire is greater in purpose-built blocks of flats of ten storeys or more than in those with fewer storeys and, particularly after the fire at Grenfell Tower, the rate of fatalities is also greater in such buildings. However, the report also identified an ambition for the Government to widen the definition in due course to include a set of residential buildings where people sleep (such as hospitals or care homes) which are normally less than ten stories high and will have vulnerable people sleeping in them. Many of the recommendations in the report relate to HRRBs; however, in some cases they apply to a wider set of buildings.

A new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive has been recommended to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through written safety cases prepared by those responsible for the building) across their entire life cycle. This also includes a recommended mandatory incident reporting mechanism for duty holders with concerns about fire safety of an HRRB.

“Building a Safer Future” Competence 

It is recommended that the construction sector and fire safety sector should demonstrate more effective leadership for ensuring building safety amongst key roles, including an overarching body to provide oversight of competence requirements. A new system for competency is currently being developed with professional and accreditation bodies where a proposal will be provided to the Government within one year.

Guidance 

It is proposed that there should be a periodic review (at least every five years) of the effectiveness of the overall system of building regulation including accountabilities, responsibilities, guidance, and the effectiveness of the regulator.

Construction Products 

A more effective testing regime with clearer labelling and product traceability is recommended. This would include a periodic review process of test methods and the range of standards in order to drive continuous improvement and higher performance and encourage innovative product and system design under better quality control.

Information 

It is proposed that to that there should be a mandatory creation of a digital record for new HRRBs from initial design intent through to construction and including any changes that occur throughout occupation. It has been also recommended that this package of building information will be used by the duty holders to demonstrate to the regulator the safety of the building throughout its life cycle.

Procurement 

For higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs), it is proposed that principal contractors and clients should devise contracts that specifically state that safety requirements must not be compromised for cost reduction. The tender process should also set out safe building outcomes. It has also been recommended that the government consider applying this requirement to other multi-occupancy residential and institutional residential buildings.

If you are at all concerned with the safety of your buildings and your people, please do get in touch with Quadriga, by calling on 0118 929 9920 or clicking here to contact us.

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