Independent Review of Building Regulations & Fire Safety Interim Report

Grenfell tower fire

In Fire sprinklers, Government, Health and safety, High-rise

Those who keep a keen eye on the news will have seen the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Interim Report has been published. The Review, led by Dame Hackitt, was commissioned by government following the Grenfell Tower fire to make recommendations on the future regulatory system.

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering has contributed to the review through both the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE).

The 118-page report (which can be accessed at the end of this blog) has been broken down by CIPHE CEO Kevin Wellman into the following key points.

Page 9 states that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose.

Page 16 observes that the Building Regulations 2010 are clear about the outcomes to be achieved but not about where responsibilities lie and that the Approved Documents are not produced in a user-friendly format. It goes on to say that ‘the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) for England has a statutory role to advise government on the Building Regulations. Its focus over recent years has been mainly on energy efficiency and the deregulatory agenda and less on fire safety and other aspects of the regulations.’

Page 17 calls into question the competence of those involved in the design, construction, ongoing operational management, and maintenance of complex and high-risk buildings.

Page 19 recognises that other countries have been more proactive in requiring formal accreditation of those engaged in all aspects of high-risk buildings.

Page 22 suggests that those working on complex and high-risk buildings need to have the appropriate qualifications and experience and be able to evidence that qualification and experience. The design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex buildings would normally require a higher degree of competence and expertise than that of small-scale or simple buildings. It recommends the following;

‘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.’

Page 23 acknowledges that there is a need for stronger and more effective enforcement within the system but this requires the necessary resources to be available and demonstrably independent.

Page 27 confirms that a summit will be held in early 2018 to set the direction and co-ordinate work plans in advance of the review’s final recommendations. In furtherance of this CIC has arranged a meeting for 15th January to discuss the construction industry’s response to the Hackitt Review.

Page 53 reiterates that professional competency is also clearly critical in providing sufficient reassurance around the fire safety of buildings.

Pages 65 – 67 cover materials and workmanship and recognise the need for product compliance.

Page 100 considers competence and accreditation and states ‘Generally, the required level of competence of individuals involved in a building’s design, construction and inspection is explicit in building regulations or guidance. The majority of countries we researched require a certain level of competence, indicated by certification either through centrally administered examinations or existing professional qualifications, and in many cases accreditation to recognised professional bodies.

The CIPHE is continuing to work with its fellow professional bodies to advise those involved in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

Download the full Interim report from Dame Hackitt.