The Hackitt Review was finally delivered yesterday and timed to follow the Government’s announcement to consult with social housing landlords on funding the replacement of cladding systems to Tower blocks. The announcement was received much more positively than the Hackitt Review findings and the timing of the announcement and the review findings was clearly no accident.
Hackitt was always in a very difficult position, as you can never please all the people, all the time, with these types of reviews. The most controversial aspect of the review’s finding was the failure to “ban” the use of combustible materials in cladding systems, preferring instead a managed risk approach. This has some logic – gas is an acutely combustible material, but we use it in homes, hospitals, schools etc. but regulate and manage it fiercely. That said, the Grenfell tragedy tells us lots of things, one of which is that the management on combustible building materials at height is extremely high risk and the consequences of error, catastrophic.
The Hackitt Review – Building a Safer Future Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report – highlights many system failures in the housing sector.
Here is a summary of the key points:
Key issues underpinning the system failure include:
- Ignorance of regulations
- Indifference to delivering quality homes
- Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities
- Inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement tools
The review has found that the current regulatory systems for ensuring fire safety, in high-rise and complex buildings, are not fit for purpose.
Key reasons for this is:
- Current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear.
- Clarity of roles and responsibilities are poor.
- There is often no differentiation in competency requirements for those working on high-rise and complex buildings.
- Compliance, enforcement and sanctions processes are too weak.
- The route for residents to escalate concerns is unclear and inadequate.
- The system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is not clear.
Direction for change:
- Regulation and guidance – these are to be more risk-based and proportionate.
- Roles and responsibilities – clarity on responsibility to be provided
- Competence – levels of competencies are to be raised
- Process, compliance and enforcement – stronger enforcement activities to be adopted
- Residents’ concerns are to be formally raised
- Quality assurance and products – products to be properly tested certified for use
It is now up to the government to provide a joined up implementation plan to provide a coherent approach to deliver the recommendations in this report
But the underlying message was that the UK building and regulatory business is broken. The privatisation of building control is said to have accelerated a race to the bottom as contractors seek to find the cheapest route. The practice of repeated sub-contracting clouds accountability and the pre-dominant design a build format erodes the opportunity for scrutiny of compliance. Most contractors claim to put health and safety at the core of their business model. The tragedy at Grenfell proves that this is not working. Hackitt points to a broken system. We can criticise elements of the report, but the industry needs to pause and reflect profoundly on the way it operates. The Grenfell tragedy was preventable and we must never see its like again.