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Last edited 05 Aug 2021
Independent review of the building regulations and fire safety
The announcement came as the first results of large-scale tests of building cladding systems was published, revealing that a system comprising an aluminium composite material (ACM cladding) with unmodified polyethylene filler (Cat 3) and foam insulation, had failed the test set out in building regulations guidance. This confirmed suspicions that the building regulations may not be effective.
The independent review was be led by Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation (formerly the Engineering Employers' Federation) and reported jointly to the Housing Secretary and Home Secretary.
Dame Judith was Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) from October 2007 to March 2016 and previously served as a Health and Safety Commissioner between 2002 and 2005. She was made a Dame in 2016 for services to health and safety and engineering and was awarded a CBE in 2006.
- The regulatory system around design, construction and on-going management in relation to fire safety.
- Compliance and enforcement issues.
- International regulation and experience in this area.
Dame Judith said; “This review will look at building regulations and fire safety to see what changes can be made for the future to make these more effective. I am keen to engage widely with industry and the public to inform the recommendations from the review. I want the recommendations to lead to any necessary improvements in the system being made.”
Sajid Javid said; “This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements. Government is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire, and to ensure nothing like it can happen again.”
In reaching its conclusions, the Review was expected to include the following:
- Map of the regulations, guidance and processes in their application to new and existing buildings (i.e. planning, design, construction, maintenance, refurbishment, and so on).
- Consideration of the key individuals and their competencies, duties and balance of responsibilities in ensuring adherence with fire safety standards.
- The current regulatory system - its theoretical coherence and practical operation.
- Comparison with international regulatory systems.
- Recommendations that ensure fitness for purpose of the regulatory system.
On 12 September 2017, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Home Office published; The call for evidence for the independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. (Ref. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-call-for-evidence-for-the-independent-review-of-building-regulations-and-fire-safety)
On 18 December 2017, Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Interim Report, was published, which called for a 'universal shift in culture', finding that:
- A culture change is required - with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built - this change needs to start now.
- The current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose.
- A clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created.
Six areas for change were identified:
- Ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous.
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe.
- Improving levels of competence within the industry.
- Improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations.
- Creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to.
- Improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction.
Dame Judith Hackitt said:
"I have found that the regulatory system for safely designing, constructing and managing buildings is not fit for purpose. The current system is highly complex and there is confusion about the roles and responsibilities at each stage. In many areas there is a lack of competence and accreditation. While this does not mean all buildings are unsafe, it does mean we need to build a more effective system for the future. That is why I am today calling for the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to identify how to overcome these shortcomings together."
Responding to the review, the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) said that they looked forward to contributing to the next phase:
‘The Grenfell tragedy sits at the top of the societal tree, where we can expect prosecutions, legislative changes, new methods of working, improved accreditation thresholds for a variety of roles and more audit and interrogation of design, construction and operational processes. For members from students right through to the most experienced, Grenfell will reshape our industry and your voice needs to be heard.
'This statement is in harmony with Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review findings and challenges our industry to make significant changes in its culture, behaviour and attitudes linked to quality, standards and health and safety. The lifespan characteristics and performance of buildings are critical to ensure that solutions are robust, durable and adaptable. These factors contribute to the needs and inclusivity requirements of users and their health and life safety throughout the buildings life.’
 Industry summit
On 22 January 2018, Dame Judith Hackitt hosted an industry summit to inform the next stage of the review. Around 50 senior industry figures met to '...bring about changes that will enable residents to be assured that their buildings are, and will continue to be, safe to live in'.
It was agreed that working groups would be established to develop solutions for:
- Design, construction and refurbishment.
- Occupation and maintenance.
- Residents’ voice.
- Regulation and guidance.
Dame Judith said; "I was greatly encouraged by the positive tone at the summit and the recognition of the common challenge. We now need to agree both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of delivering the transformational change which is needed."
On 16 May 2018, Building a Safer Future, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, was published, setting out more than 50 recommendations for government as to how to deliver a more robust regulatory system for the future.
In the report Dame Hackitt suggested that “…there is a need for a radical rethink of the whole system and how it works. This is most definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, nor looked to other sectors.”
It called for a new framework designed to:
- Create a more simple and effective mechanism for driving building safety.
- Provide stronger oversight of dutyholders with incentives.
- Reassert the role of residents
In July 2018, following the Hackitt review, the 'Independent review of building regulations and fire safety: next steps' was published by the cross-party housing, communities and local government committee. The report called for the proposed ban on combustible cladding to be extended to apply to existing high-rise residential buildings, as well as high-risk buildings such as residential homes, hospitals, student accommodation and hotels. It also called for action to tackle the lack of independent oversight of the industry, in particular, the ability of builders to appoint their own inspectors, and manufacturers being able to choose more lenient testing bodies for their products.
The Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire, confirmed he would conduct a full-scale review of Approved Document B, saying; "Dame Judith’s report sets out the right framework to improve safety but I will not hesitate to go further than the recommendations where I deem it necessary. That is why I am going further than my original commitment to simply clarify the guidelines, by commencing an end-to-end technical review of the fire safety aspects of building regulations in the autumn."
In January 2019, appearing before MPs during a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee evidence session, Hackitt spoke of her regret that the seven-month delay by the government before announcing it would back her recommendations had led to a loss of momentum. Ref http://www.constructionmanagermagazine.com/news/hackitt-government-delay-has-led-loss-momentum/
On 6 June 2019 the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) published Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system, seeking views on a new building and fire safety system following the recommendations of the Hackitt Review.
On 28 October 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP announced that Dame Judith Hackitt will advise MHCLG on the most effective way to deliver a new Building Safety Regulator.
On 20 January 2020 Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced new measures to improve building safety standards, described as: ‘the biggest change in building safety for a generation’. The changes, include the immediate creation of a new Building Safety Regulator and a consultation on extending the ban on combustible materials. For more information see: Reform of building safety standards.
On 5 August 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published The Industry Safety Steering Group’s report for the Secretary of State and the Minister for Building Safety. In it, Hackitt states: "Whilst some headway has been made there remains a lack of urgency and a feeling that organisations are already doing their bit, which in the ISSG’s view, doesn’t currently go far enough."
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- ACM cladding testing by BRE.
- ACM cladding.
- Addressing building failures: Grenfell Tower and Edinburgh schools.
- Analysis: Is Hackitt a turning point for the profession?
- Building a safer future: an implementation plan.
- Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system.
- Building Safety Alliance.
- Building Safety Regulator.
- CIOB reviews the Building Safety Bill.
- Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK.
- Grenfell Tower articles.
- Grenfell Tower Fire.
- Grenfell Tower independent expert advisory panel
- Grenfell Tower industry response group.
- Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
- Grenfell Tower working group.
- Hackitt review of the building regulations and fire safety, final report.
- ICE Grenfell Tower review.
- Independent review of the construction products testing regime.
- Joint Competent Authority.
- Lakanal House fire.
- National construction products regulator established.
- Queen's speech 2019.
- Rainscreen cladding.
- Reform of building safety standards.
- Ronan Point.
- Setting the Bar Final Report.
- Torre Windsor office building fire.
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