Dame Judith Hackitt’s Interim Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was published 18 December 2017. Her report to the Select Committee in Parliament is being broadcast live at 2:30pm on the Parliament Channel.
Our initial reading of the report is that it supports much of LABC’s submission and feedback, both from LABC centrally and through other consultations with members.
In her Foreword, Dame Judith expresses her own view, “Despite being advised at the outset that the regulatory system for building was outcomes and performance-based, I have encountered masses of prescription which is complex and in some cases inconsistent.
"The prescription is largely owned by government, with industry – those who should be the experts in best practice – waiting to be told what to do and some looking for ways to work around it.”
She also expresses her “shock” at some of the practices she has discovered. She says, “There is plenty of good practice but it is not difficult to see how those who are inclined to take shortcuts can do so.
"Change control and quality assurance are poor throughout the process. What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking.” She continues, “The mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems and shortcomings to others must stop.”
Dame Judith Hackitt’s seven recommendations
1. The Government should consider how the suite of Approved Documents could be structured and ordered to provide a more streamlined, holistic view while retaining the right level of relevant technical detail. Given that reframing the suite of guidance may take some time, in the meantime I would ask the government to consider any presentational changes that will improve the clarity of Approved Document B as an interim measure.
2. There is a need to be certain that those working on the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex and high risk buildings are suitably qualified. The professional and accreditation bodies have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of establishing a robust, comprehensive and coherent system covering all disciplines for work on such buildings. If they are able to come together and develop a joined up system covering all levels of qualification in relevant disciplines, this will provide the framework for regulation to mandate the use of suitable, qualified professionals who can demonstrate that their skills are up to date. This should cover as a minimum: engineers, those installing and maintaining fire safety systems and other safety-critical systems, fire engineers, fire risk assessors, fire safety enforcing officers, and building control inspectors. I will launch this work at a summit in early 2018.
3. Consultation with the fire and rescue services is required on plans for buildings that are covered by the Fire Safety Order, but does not work as intended. Consultation by building control bodies and by those commissioning or designing buildings should take place early in the process and fire and rescue service advice should be fully taken into account. The aim should be to secure their input and support at the earliest stage possible so that fire safety can be fully designed in.
4. Building developers need to ensure that there is a formal review and handover process ahead of occupation of any part of a new high-rise residential building. While there are legitimate reasons to allow occupation in a phased way, the practice of allowing occupancy of buildings without proper review and handover presents barriers to the implementation of any remedial measures identified as part of the completion process.
5. There is a need for building control bodies to do more to assure that fire safety information for a building is provided by the person completing the building work to the responsible person for the building in occupation. Proof should be sought that it has been transferred.
6. It is currently the case under the Fire Safety Order that fire risk assessments for high rise residential buildings must be carried out ‘regularly’. It is recommended that the responsible person ensures these are undertaken at least annually and when any significant alterations are made to the building.
7. The government should significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding and other systems to ensure that they are only used where appropriate and with sufficient, relevant test evidence. Those undertaking desktop studies must be able to demonstrate suitable competence.
LABC will be looking at the report in detail and responding over the coming days and weeks. LABC CEO Phil Hammond's initial view in the meantime is that this is an accurate, sensible and rigorous analysis of where we have ended up.
Also read Important points for Members from Judith Hackitt's Interim Report and view and download the Interim Report and Summary of the Report from the Government's website.
Published December 2017