Dame Judith Hackitt's building regulation recommendations will be taken forward, reports Herpreet Kaur Grewal.
04 February 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has confirmed that the government is implementing all recommendations in the Hackitt Review.
In his statement Brokenshire said: "The government will create a stronger regulatory framework that will provide national leadership to drive improvements in building safety The government wants the new regulatory structure to draw on the expertise of key existing regulators: the HSE, fire and rescue authorities and local authority building control."
He added that the government would establish a new Joint Regulators Group to help it develop and pilot new approaches and, in due course, to assist with the transition to a new regulatory framework, starting "as soon as practicable".
This group would draw together the expertise of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Local Authority Building Control (LABC), the Fire and Rescue Services through the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), the Local Government Association (LGA), and others as needed.
The LABC welcomed the announcement and is working with colleagues from the LGA, NFCC and the HSE to accelerate progress and to identify and run pilots.
Paul Everall, LABC chief executive, said: "The secretary of state has shown leadership by recognising the need for systemic reform of the building safety regime by implementing Dame Judith Hackitt recommendations in full.
"LABC has pledged to provide full support to the new Joint Regulators Group and we are ready with resources, people and expertise. LABC already has the largest group of experienced building control surveyors with demonstrable competency in fire safety in England and Wales - all validated by the Institution of Fire Engineers. And we have been heavily investing in standards and competencies - supported by our UKAS-accredited quality management systems. This has combined with a 16 per cent rise in recruitment across public service building control, which means we are ideally placed to provide the expert support this shadow regulator needs."
Pace of change
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomed the government's response to the Hackitt Review, but it had some concerns about the pace of change, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) stating its intention only to consult on many aspects of the implementation and not until the spring.
But it hailed the Hackitt Review's focus on ensuring that fire safety is considered early in the design process and the introduction of mandatory sign-off procedures at the crucial 'gateway points' of planning permission, permission to build and permission to occupy.
The association also praises the focus on improving levels of competency throughout the construction process and is working with the Competency Working Groups established by the construction industry's Competency Steering Group to deliver proposals for an overarching competency framework.
The body also supports MHCLG's aim to improve product test standards and guarantee clarity in marketing. It said it is pleased to see government support for third-party certification schemes for products, which it believes are key to improving the quality of fire protection products, but notes that this should extend to installers as well because this is where many of the current problems lie.
The new government guidance for assessments in lieu of tests (sometimes known as desktop studies) prohibits the use of such assessments for external wall systems for all buildings in scope of the combustible materials ban.
It also restricts the use of such assessments in other areas and limits how they are undertaken and by whom, guaranteeing transparency and requiring companies that undertake these tests to do so to high standards.
The requirements are quite restrictive and there are some contradictions in the MHCLG guidance. Consequently, the association will be seeking clarification.
It has been working within the Passive Fire Protection Forum on a revised Guide to Undertaking Assessments in Lieu of Fire Tests, which aims to provide guidance on who is permitted to undertake such assessments, with qualifications, experience and training required being clearly defined. A revised version is expected early in 2019.
ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states: "The association welcomes the government's aim to implement Dame Judith's recommendations as we strongly agreed with her conclusions, many of which reflect what the fire community, including the ASFP, has been saying for some years. We also welcome the announcement of a full review of Approved Document B, which we believe is long overdue.
"We are pleased to see support for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and look forward to working with government and other stakeholders to develop minimum standards for such schemes.
"We also welcome the tightening of the qualifications, experience and training required of those who will undertake assessments in lieu of tests, but will seek clarification as to the scope, particularly for non-building envelope related products.
"We understand the recommendations of the Hackitt Review were detailed and wide-ranging, since they called for a complete overhaul of the building regulatory system. We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment."