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Grenfell Inquiry appoints new architectural expert witness

Paul hyett

The Grenfell Inquiry has appointed former RIBA president Paul Hyett as its architectural expert witness, after sacking its original choice for not being a registered architect

John Priestley of John Priestley Associates, was removed from his role in June  – two days after being appointed – after it emerged that he had not been on the Architects Registration Board’s (ARB) register for the previous eight years.

The inquiry announced today (13 November) that Hyett, a principal at US practice HKS Architects and former AJ columnist, would now be tasked with investigating the ‘architectural design’ of the tower’s controversial refurbishment.

Hyett’s report on the refit will look at the choice of materials, the development of the design, compliance with legislation and regulations and the quality of the workmanship.

The report will be disclosed to all of the inquiry’s core participants and presented during the hearings.

Hyett is an experienced expert witness and a specialist in construction litigation and forensic investigation. His previous roles include vice president of the Architectural Association and chair of the Carbon Trusts Research programme.

He wrote a weekly AJ practice column up until 2000, when he successfully ran for the RIBA presidency. The column covered a range of topics, from sustainability to fire strategies and architectural education.

He also has served as a member of the NHS Design Review Panel and as a member of the Exemplar Schools Steering Group. 

The Grenfell Inquiry was forced to rethink its original appointment of John Priestley as its expert witness after the ARB launched an investigation into Priestley’s potential misuse of the title ‘architect’. 

Despite numerous references to ‘architects’ on his website, including the statement ‘John Priestley is a UK registered and Chartered Architect’, it emerged he had not been on the ARB register since 2010. 

The inquiry is currently focusing solely on what happened on the night of the fire. A second phase of evidence examining why the fire happened will begin next year. 


Readers' comments (6)

  • Paul,

    Just call Sam Webb who has all the answers from prior experience.

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  • Agreed, … Sam Webb would have been the obvious choice.

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  • I’m sure Paul will turn out to be an excellent choice. It will be interesting to see more details of his terms of reference.

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  • Chris Roche

    I agree with John and David above, Sam Webb would have been the obvious choice, having spent most of his life investigating similar housing disasters. Sam is also on the RIBA's expert fire panel. If Paul can bring Sam's expertise to the public enquiry he should. If he doesn't this would be a travesty. Sam has more historical knowledge than anyone else over a period of 50 years, starting with Ronan Point in 1968, 4 fatalities, and continuing up to Lakanal House in Southwark, 2009, 6 fatalities. Moreover for 50 years Sam has offered his expertise pro-bona to ensure there is no conflict of interest with his paymasters.

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  • Frances Maria

    Paul was chosen because he has experience in forensics and construction litigation, as well as wide ranging architectural experience in general, which he has obtained through a career spanning many years. He is also an former RIBA President. His predecessor, John Priestley also had experience in the forensic aspects of architecture. There is no doubt that Sam Webb also has these attributes, and I am sure that he will be involved in the investigation in other ways, making a valuable contribution.

    Regarding his terms of reference, as mentioned by Jonathan Hall, these are as follows:

    To examine the aspects of the architectural design in relation to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, including:

    - Choice of materials;

    - Development of the design;

    - Compliance with legislation & regulations;

    - Quality of the workmanship;

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  • . . . . the web site of the dismissed and convicted Mr Priestly still states his credentials as both Registered and Chartered. Surely one of the conditions should be he desists from doing so and the web page be amended/corrected.

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