Set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 71 people in June, Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report says that “the current overall system is not working effectively and needs to be overhauled.”
The interim report has highlighted several major shortcomings in regulation and other areas affecting fire safety that will shape the more detailed recommendations set out in the final report, scheduled for release some time in Spring 2018.
- Privatisation of building control has created conflicts of interest relating to with growing levels of mutual dependence between developers and contracted inspectors
- Regulations encourage cost-cutting, requiring nothing short of a brand-new regulatory regime being needed to remedy the problems.
- Regulations are undermined by confusing profusion of guidance - key definitions are unclear; for example, ‘high rise’, ‘persons carrying out the work’, ‘limited combustibility’ and ‘material alteration’, are leaving too much open to interpretation.
- Both government and all industry stakeholders must play a part in preventing further tragedies – these stakeholders would include the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government.
- Residents’ concerns must be heard, responded to and, where justified, acted on.
Dame Judith Hackitt said the next phase of her review – with the final report published some time in Spring 2018 – would focus on “overhauling [the regulations] in quite a significant way”.
She added: “The regulations themselves are pretty simple but what sits below the building regulations is a whole series of guidance documents which stacked on top of one another would be about 2ft high … There is clearly an opportunity to make that much simpler and to guide people to the right answer.”
Unsurprisingly, the recommendations will cover sprinklers, which are not mandatory in high rise buildings, and cladding, examples of which Alarm systems and escape routes will be among the other facets of fire safety under consideration.
She said: “I’ve talked to over 300 people. Overwhelmingly the view that has been expressed to me is that this system needs improving, and it needs greater clarity, and I’m hopeful that’s what I’m going to bring to the system.
“The quicker we can get some [improvements] in place, the sooner we can build that level of reassurance that residents of high-rise buildings absolutely deserve.”