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Mon January 21 2019

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No timetable attached to Hackitt implementation plan

19 Dec 18 The government has set out how it plans to implement the recommendations of the Hackitt review of building regulations and fire safety published following the Grenfell Tower fire. But it has not said when it will happen.

The Grenfell Tower fire has led to root and branch review of building regulations which is set to rumble on for few more years yet
The Grenfell Tower fire has led to root and branch review of building regulations which is set to rumble on for few more years yet

And it has launched another review of fire safety guidance.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) said that it would “take forward” all the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt and “introduce clearer standards and guidance, including establishing a new Standards Committee to advise on construction product and system standards and regulations”.

It also plans to “help to create a culture change and a more responsible building industry, from design, through to construction and management”.

A Joint Regulators’ Group will be set up 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,” the ministry said.

The Joint Regulators Group’ will comprise Local Authority Building Control, the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Health & Safety Executive and the Local Government Association which includes the fire and rescue authorities.

A review of fire safety guidance within building regulations has also now been launched. The government has issued a ‘call for evidence’ to gather. The government is also inviting views from residents and those who manage buildings on how to improve fire and structural safety.

The plans are set out in a document called Building a Safer Future: An Implementation Plan. It contains little or no detail on timetables for when any legislation might be brought forward to effect change.

Current housing secretary James Brokenshire said: “There is nothing more important than being safe in your own home and I am determined to improve building safety. My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules. 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.”

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Former Health & Safety Executive chair Dame Judith Hackitt was commissioned by ministers to review the current regime for building safety after the Grenfell Tower fire of July 2017.

Her final report, Building a Safer Future, published in May 2017, set out more than 50 recommendations for government for a more robust regulatory system. She emphasised that they are not a shopping list from which measures can be cherry-picked; they all fit together and only in combination will bring about the required change.

Among the core recommendations was the creation of a Joint Competent Authority (JCA) as regulator comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health & Safety Executive to oversee better management of HRRBs across their life cycle.

“The new regulatory framework must be outcomes-based (rather than based on prescriptive rules and complex guidance) and it must have real teeth, so that it can drive the right behaviours," Hackitt said. "This will create an environment where there are incentives to do the right thing and serious penalties for those who choose to game the system and as a result put the users of the ‘product’ at risk.”

The report recommended a clear model of risk ownership, with clearer responsibilities for the client, designer, contractor and owner to demonstrate the delivery and maintenance of safe buildings, overseen and held to account by the JCA. Every HRRB should have a clear and identifiable duty holder with responsibility for building safety of the whole building.

In particular, she recommended building regulations based on performance specifications – output rather than input.

“This is most definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, nor looked to other sectors,” Dame Judith said.

“Prescriptive regulation and guidance are not helpful in designing and building complex buildings, especially in an environment where building technology and practices continue to evolve, and will prevent those undertaking building work from taking responsibility for their actions.

“An outcomes-based framework requires people who are part of the system to be competent, to think for themselves rather than blindly following guidance, and to understand their responsibilities to deliver and maintain safety and integrity throughout the life cycle of a building.”

MPU

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