BESA backs Hackitt’s call to action following Grenfell Tower fire

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed the interim report issued by the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The need for future regulations to focus on the whole lifecycle of buildings and for the industry to “sharpen up” on skills and competence were particularly welcome, the Association said.

The Review, chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, has identified systemic failings in the way construction projects are designed, delivered and managed.

“I said in the report there is a lack of competence throughout the system and that is in all areas,” said Dame Judith. “In the construction industry, whilst there are clearly many competent people, the system for identifying and differentiating those who are competent from those who are not is ineffective.”

She also urged the industry to take a lead on improving its procedures and not wait for the government to tell it what to do.

BESA welcomed the fact that the Review had resisted the temptation to make headline grabbing specific prescriptive demands, but was instead focused on overhauling the whole process, which would have more profound and far reaching consequences.

Tick box approach

“Dame Judith’s vision of an outcome-based model for our regulations is a significant and extremely positive change,” said BESA’s head of sustainability David Frise. “The current ‘tick box’ regulatory approach stifles innovation and encourages the industry simply to design for compliance with a system that is poorly enforced anyway. Moving away from that could fire up the culture change the Review is seeking.”

The Review has identified a major failing in that construction regularly starts before building control has signed off the design or is too far advanced for recommended fire safety work to be incorporated. The building’s quality is then further undermined by the lack of meaningful penalties for anyone found to be in breach of the regulations.

“Changing to output-based regulations means that it will no longer be about what you promised to deliver, but what you actually deliver that counts. This should be reinforced by financial (and sometimes criminal) penalties that are far greater than the benefits you can get from cutting corners,” said Mr Frise.

The industry already has a range of third party accredited competent person schemes in place that can support Dame Judith’s call for a more robust method of establishing professional competence, he added.

BESA said that it had contributed a detailed submission to the Hackitt Review and would continue to work with it and push for higher standards right across the sector before the full report is published in the spring.

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