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23 February 2019
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Grenfell Tower © Getty Images

04 June 2018 Herpreet Kaur Grewal


Landlords and building managers will be held accountable by a new ‘joint competent authority’ that will oversee safety within multi-occupancy higher-risk residential buildings, reports Herpreet Kaur Grewal.

Landlords and building managers will be held accountable by a new ‘joint competent authority’ that will oversee safety within multi-occupancy higher-risk residential buildings, according to the final report of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review.

Her investigation into building regulations and fire safety was 

undertaken in response to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

The joint competent authority (JCA) would comprise the combined expertise and knowledge of Local Authority Building Standards and fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The bodies would not be merged but these organisations would provide those responsible with a framework to work from to “more rigorously assess building safety and would create a more unified and consistent intervention process”.

The report, published on 17 May, states that a “clear and identifiable duty holder” with responsibility for building safety of the whole building would be appointed. That person in turn must nominate a building safety manager or declare that he or she will take the role. This duty holder would maintain the fire and structural safety of the whole building, and identify and make improvements where reasonable and practicable.

There will be a requirement for the duty holder to present a safety case to the JCA at regular intervals to check that building safety risks are being managed “so far as is reasonably practicable”. The building safety manager will also act as a point of contact for residents so their name and contact information must be notified to the JCA and to residents in the building.

Although the building owner or superior landlord must nominate a building safety manager, accountability remains with the duty holder and “they cannot pass or delegate their accountability to the building safety manager, but can delegate the responsibility for certain tasks to them”.

Dame Judith said: “This is a systematic problem. The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what, and there is inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement. Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes.

Response from BSRIA: ‘Robust measures’ are needed to implement best build standards

BSRIA also welcomed the report, but Julia Evans, BSRIA’s chief executive, said: “One of the main report findings is ‘a lack of clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of those procuring, designing, constructing and maintaining buildings are unclear’ and BSRIA agrees that more collaboration is needed for delivery as it is intended.”

She cited the Soft Landings programme as one of the ways this is already done. “Dame Judith said that ‘the regulatory system will ensure that anyone who tries to make shortcuts will be stopped before such buildings are designed and commissioned for people to live in’.”

Evans added: “A robust method of ensuring buildings are built to the intended standard is something BSRIA is calling for. In fact – the web of regulations – the standards themselves, the framework and implementation – needs unpicking. Independent verification of the performance of components and buildings is necessary.”

“The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and ongoing management of high-rise residential buildings.”

She built on her interim report published earlier this year, setting out six key areas for further work, relating to less prescriptive regulatory framework, clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process, more resident consultation, a more rigorous product-testing regime and responsible marketing regime, and strengthening competence of all those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.

Missed opportunity

But Navin Shah, the member of the London Assembly Planning Committee who wrote a report into fire safety calling for sprinklers to be mandatory in all new buildings above 18 metres, said: “It’s very disappointing that this review of building and fire regulations has not recommended sprinklers or other similar systems to be made mandatory in all buildings above 18 metres.

“The Fire Commissioner said introducing sprinklers in this way is a ‘no-brainer’, so it’s deeply concerning that the government continues to overlook the seriousness of this issue. The appalling tragedy of Grenfell must never happen again. This is a dangerous missed opportunity to ensure that people can feel safe in their homes and I would urge a rapid rethink.”

Lord Porter of Spalding, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “It is good that Dame Judith’s report agrees that the current system is not fit for purpose and has set out a range of recommendations for its long-term reform.”

Nevertheless, he criticised the review’s lack of a ban on “combustible materials and the use of desktop studies, both essential measures to improve safety”.

But within hours of the report’s release, in a statement to Parliament housing secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said the government was “consulting on significantly restricting or banning the use of “desktop studies” to assess cladding systems”.

He said: “Inappropriate use of desktop studies is unacceptable and I will not hesitate to ban them if the consultation – which closes on 25 May – does not demonstrate that they can be used safely.

“Secondly, we are working with industry to clarify Building Regulations fire safety guidance, and I will publish this for consultation in July.”

Response from FMB: Review is ‘blueprint for wider industry’

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “[The] report is the culmination of a long and thorough review into the weaknesses of the current approach to competency and compliance in the sector, weaknesses which can serve to undermine safety. It is a suitably serious response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. 

“Dame Judith has understandably focused the attention of the review on high-rise residential buildings, but we believe strongly that some of the recommendations must be taken as a blueprint for the wider industry. In particular, the industry as a whole needs to develop a comprehensive approach to competence.”

Response from BIFM: BIFM plans to devise new competency programme

  • In response to the review, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) announced plans to develop a new certified accreditation and a suite of training for FMs in charge of life safety in buildings.

Its statement said: “FMs play a crucial role in both the management of buildings in use and in the commissioning and acceptance of new and newly refurbished buildings. Responding to Building a Safer Future, the final report by Dame Judith Hackitt… the institute plans to ensure that FMs have access to high-quality training and professional development that can certify their competency to uphold the highest standards of life safety in the buildings they manage.

“In the spirit of the report’s call for continued collaboration on competency building between professional bodies, towards an overarching framework, the BIFM is keen to work with other bodies representing the built environment to ensure a joined-up response.”

The Institute’s Life Safety Working Group (LSWG) will play a role in the development of a specific competency programme for facilities managers, alongside relevant CPD. 

The group has been an active participant in the Hackitt Review team’s work, helping to articulate how fire safety can be achieved best when maintaining buildings as well as feeding into work to develop competency in such maintenance.   

Chair Rob Greenfield, said: “Given the vital role that FMs can and do play in ensuring high standards of life safety in buildings, it’s important to strengthen the competency of those involved. My experts group will lead work to develop a dedicated accreditation programme for a specific FM standard as a first step in ensuring that FM best practice plays a part in the response to Hackitt.”


CEO Linda Hausmanis said she is “keen to ensure that BIFM leads the way in setting and upholding fire and system related professional competencies for facilities managers; and that the institute contributes fully in ensuring coherence across the piece”.