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Grenfell Tower inquiry turns down RIBA's offer to help

Grenfell tower fire crop
  • 8 Comments

The Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry has refused the RIBA’s application to become a ‘core participant’ on the review into the 71 deaths caused by the tragic fire in June

The status would have allowed the RIBA to provide written opening statements to the inquiry, in order to highlight particular evidence or any aspect of the investigation affecting the institute. 

In its latest update, the independent inquiry stated that 25 organisations and professional bodies had been granted core participant (CP) status.

In total, 545 applications for a CP position were received, including those from individuals. Of these, 393 have been accepted, 111 refused and 41 deferred or waiting to be considered.

A RIBA spokesperson told the AJ: ’The RIBA’s application for core participant status was not accepted. The inquiry recognised that it can benefit from the expertise of our members, but we do not need to be a core participant to give evidence.

’We continue to engage closely with ministers, civil servants and advisers involved in the various strands of work related to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, making recommendations to enhance the future fire safety of buildings for all residents and users.’

The inquiry’s update also announced the appointment of three ‘assessors’ – acting as advisers to chair Martin Moore-Bick – including civil engineer David Nethercot, who will examine Grenfell Tower’s design, construction and refurbishment. None of these three assessors are architects. 

A spokesperson for the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry told the AJ that each assessor had ’specific experience and expertise that was felt likely to be of assistance to the chairman’.

’The inquiry is still at an early stage and additional assessors will be appointed if this is required either for the duration of the inquiry or for a specific part of the inquiry,’ the spokesperson added.

’Matters of design and the choice of materials for use in high-rise buildings from an architectual perspective will be an important aspect of Phase 2 of the inquiry.’

The first procedural hearing for the inquiry will be held on 11 and 12 December 2017 at Holborn Bars, central London.

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • Frances Maria

    I am an Architectural Technologist and I too am disappointed that neither a technologist or architect is included within the Expert Witnesses or Assessors. I also applied for CP status as an individual, but was refused. Key professional institutions such as RIBA have much to offer the Inquiry and from a different perspective to engineers and fire specialists, and are therefore in a position to make a valuable contribution as to what went wrong. As an professionally practicing individual, I have been carrying out some research and have produced some reports for the Inquiry - so there are ways of doing things - but like RIBA and others involved in the architecture profession, I would have preferred to have seen formal inclusion. The issues being investigated are important and will have an impact on our professional lives, as well as those of our clients

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  • John Kellett

    The Inquiry's decision is bizarre. What possible reason can be given for excluding the one profession involved at all stages of a building's life from feasibility, through full design and construction. We are also involved in the continued life of a building through refurbishments and repairs etc. As was the case with Grenfell Tower. DISGRACEFUL.

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  • Architects know more about the fitness for purpose, performance and specification of an overall constructed building than any other consultant in the construction industry. Being lead consultant they need to stand up and be counted. Not being included formally in the Grenfell enquiry confirms two important things in my opinion:
    1. The construction industry prefers to ignore the integral role of the competent architect in terms of expertise in the technical aspects of construction and performance of buildings. In a fragmented industry where collaboration is rare and experts tend to work with their own agenda in isolation this disregard for what the RIBA can contribute to this enquiry is dangerous.
    2. Architects have given the impression over the last 50 years that building is for the contractors to worry about. The design and build contract reinforces this tendency. I believe architects need to embrace the opportunity to reclaim the reputation for technical expertise by really getting involved in the detail when it comes to construction and performance of buildings before they become even more marginalized by clients and other consultants in the industry.

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  • Sadly this is very significant and is a very obvious reminder that the public generally do not understand the role of the architect and what the architect can contribute to a building project. I enjoy visiting the end of year student exhibitions and can appreciate what is being shown, but for many members of the public what is being exhibited is only applicable to flagship projects and often does not reflect the technical expertise they have.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    If this is the case, then maybe the RIBA should support / advise the project architects. Presumably they are a 'core participant' in this Inquiry.
    If they have not been designated so, one might fear for the objectivity of the findings.

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  • What was the architects' brief at Grenfell? appointed by the client? or contractor? For both design and construction drawings? And inspections? Was there a Clerk of Works ? Is the layout of one staircase and the rule of "stay in your flat if the fire alarm goes off" common practice throughout England (Wales?)for a high multi-storey block of flats or is this a comparatively new idea? And finally are such buildings still being built?
    There are lots of questions which architects are best prepared to answer over and above those within the client organisations' knowledge of those acting and while it seems strange that the RIBA has been rejected as a core participant it might be the case that the expert witnesses for all the Client Design and Construction parties have common views I fear this will be unlikely. Perhaps the RIBA will be called upon to offer expert witnesses and the "core participant " rejection might in that case be more appropriate

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  • I think to exclude the RIBA as a core contributor to this important inquiry is a mistake by the selection team. The RIBA and its team of specialist architects could make a very valid part of the team and draw on a wealth of experience and knowledge as building and design experts. architects are the only members of the design team who have a full understanding of the whole building process and specification details. Why would they not be included? Why is there no architect as one of the 3 key assessors? Maybe they don't realise the value we architects bring and are out of touch, or don't want to engage a full team of experts! The result would be a lot quicker and more professional if they did. It's not too late to have RIBA included?

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  • P Latham

    Whatever the outcome of the enquiry which we must not pre-judge, the word 'architect' means nothing if the public cannot expect any architect to have understood the incendiary nature of the cladding system proposed to build out their concept design. You would surely expect nothing less of any profession. Where was the Duty of Care every architect owes the public? The abysmal technical training in our schools and lack of an apprenticeship-based education for architects is a factor the RIBA needs to reflect upon when it complains it is under represented at the Grenfell Tower enquiry.

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