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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: RIBA calls for investigation into design and construction

Grenfell tower (34552739503) chiraljon
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The RIBA has made a written submission to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which has launched a consultation into its terms of reference

The institute’s statement contains several recommendations for the public inquiry, including that it should analyse the design and construction of Grenfell Tower both before and after its refurbishment.

In the document, the RIBA urges the inquiry to pursue a ‘comprehensive investigation’ into the cause of the fire, the reasons for it spreading so quickly and the factors that led to such a huge loss of life.

The RIBA says this analysis should include the ‘design and construction of Grenfell Tower, its condition prior to refurbishment, the material alterations made to the building, and the management and oversight of the design and construction process for those material alterations, from conception and commissioning to completion’.

It adds that the inquiry should look at the Building Regulations approval and inspection process in relation to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, as well as its compliance with other relevant regulation such as the Gas Regulations, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and appropriate codes of practice.

Yesterday, in a letter sent to survivors of the fire, the Metropolitan Police said there were ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect the local council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which managed the tower block, of corporate manslaughter.  

The institute says the inquiry should cover the ‘broadest possible remit’ in examining the ‘overall regulatory and procurement context for construction of buildings in the United Kingdom’. 

It says this should be done to ‘ensure that any systemic issues that may impact on the design, quality of construction and safety of buildings in respect of fire and which could have contributed to the Grenfell Tower fire are brought under appropriate scrutiny’.

This, it adds, should include looking at the development of building procurement methods, which mean that the lead designer is ‘frequently no longer responsible from inception to completion of the project for oversight’, as well as the ‘virtual disappearance’ of the role of the on-site clerk of works.

The body also says the inquiry should review the ways in which fire brigades are ‘engaged’ in the development of the Building Regulations and are able to ‘provide input into the design of individual buildings’.

Regarding an interim report which could be published more quickly, the RIBA states this should deal with any initial findings that can ’enhance fire safety’ in tower blocks, and report upon procurement and regulatory context which may have contributed to creating a major fire with ’such disastrous consequences’. 

It says that, in taking expert advice on the behaviour on fire in buildings and the regulations, the inquiry ‘may wish to consider’ using independent experts not involved in the development of the UK building regulations, possibly from outside the country. 

Earlier this month, the RIBA  escalated its calls to the government over fire safety in the Building Regulations, demanding a ’comprehensive, transparent and fundamental’ overhaul.

Read the RIBA’s written submission here


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