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Javid admits possibility of 'systemic failure' in Building Regs

Grenfell tower fire crop
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Communities secretary Sajid Javid has conceded there could be a ‘systemic failure’ in the way tower block fire risk is managed in the UK, as the terms of reference for a post-Grenfell review of the Building Regulations are announced

The review, to be led by Judith Hackitt, chair of manufacturing employers body EEF, will look at systems used in other industries and countries as it probes the way UK law protects buildings from fire.

It will seek to develop a more robust regulatory system and reassure residents that their homes are safe.

Javid said: ‘We must learn the lessons of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and ensure that a fire like this cannot happen again. Following the fire, I commissioned a series of large-scale tests, which have raised the question of whether there have been potential systemic failures within the building regulatory and fire safety system.

‘This independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt will address any potential failures and recommend how we ensure the whole Building Regulations and fire safety system is robust.’

The blaze that ripped through Grenfell Tower in west London in June is thought to have killed about 80 people. Ministers revealed in July that the polyethylene filling in cladding panels used at Grenfell Tower and at least 60 other tower blocks had been given the lowest fire-safety rating during tests carried by the Building Research Establishment.

Hackitt’s review is separate to the public inquiry being led by retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, the terms of which were criticised last month by former RIBA president Jane Duncan who was replaced by Ben Derbyshire today.

The Hackitt review will:

  • map the current regulatory system as it applies to new and existing buildings through planning, design, construction, maintenance, refurbishment and change management;
  • consider the competencies, duties and balance of responsibilities of key individuals within the system in ensuring that fire safety standards are adhered to;
  • assess the theoretical coherence of the current regulatory system and how it operates in practice;
  • compare this with other international regulatory systems for buildings and regulatory systems in other sectors with similar safety risks;
  • make recommendations that ensure the regulatory system is fit for purpose with a particular focus on multi-occupancy high-rise residential buildings.

An interim report will be handed to the communities secretary this autumn, with a final report going to ministers in spring 2018.

Hackitt said: ‘I look forward to working with experts from across different sectors to take an urgent, fresh and comprehensive examination of the regulatory system and related compliance and enforcement issues.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The choice of Judith Hackitt, chair of manufacturing employers body EEF, is hardly likely to install confidence in any outcome.
    The over-representation of manufacturers on the Building Regulations Advisory Committee could be said to have made the present Regs so weak.
    For example one of the directors of St Gobain, who make Celotex, the not quite non-combustible back insulation used at Grenfell.

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