Author Bio ▼

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

December 19, 2018

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fire safety

Tougher building safety regulations announced

The Government has announced new plans to create a more effective regulatory framework to improve building safety.

The Building a Safer Future plans follow on from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, which was published earlier this year in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

According to the Government, ministers plan to take forward all of the recommendations in her review.

The Hackitt report concluded that indifference and ignorance led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices with cost prioritised over safety and said there needs to a “radical rethink of the whole system and how it works”.

Clarity

The new plans will also introduce clearer standards and guidance, including establishing a new Standards Committee to advise on construction product and system standards and regulations

In addition, the Government will establish the Joint Regulators’ Group to trial elements of a new regulatory system ahead of any new proposed legislation.

The group will bring existing regulatory bodies together to work with developers and building owners, as well as seeking input from residents and tenants, to develop and test new approaches that may later feature in legislation.

Further government action

A full review of fire safety guidance within building regulations has also been launched by ministers.

The Government is also inviting views from residents and those who manage buildings on how to improve fire and structural safety.

“My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules,” said Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire.

“By making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes.”

RIBA reaction

Responding to the Government’s plans, the Chair of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Jane Duncan said it was pleased to see that the Government will require proper testing of fire safety products rather than relying on desktop studies, and that they are planning substantial and comprehensive reform of the regulatory and accountability framework.

“However, this news is long-overdue and with the exception of new regulations for combustible cladding, the building regulations relating to fire safety remain unfit for purpose, the same as they were when the Grenfell Tower tragedy took place, over 18 months ago,” added Ms Duncan.

“England is now lagging behind Wales and Scotland, who have in place or are introducing regulations to require sprinklers and provide a second means of escape – two recommendations the RIBA has consistently called for to provide clarity for the industry and protection for the public.

“Furthermore, until we see real reform of the procurement processes for construction projects, the pressure to cut costs will continue to incentivise the use of cheaper and ultimately riskier materials, reduction in accountability and a lack of competence and supervision.  The Government must urgently reform the inspection process, and place a holistic focus on safety, and building quality.”

“The next large-scale fire may not happen in a tower block, so it’s also vital that the Government do not neglect other high-risk buildings like care homes, hospitals and schools.”

 

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