Last edited 19 May 2024

Northern Ireland roadmap to improving safety in high rise residential buildings

NI Building safety Roadmap report cover 350.jpg


[edit] Background

In December 2021, the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive agreed to the Department of Finance (DoF) establishing an Expert Panel to review the key issues highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and to look at the legal and policy responsibilities of NI Departments and Local Authorities for building and fire safety in Northern Ireland.

The panel was asked ‘to make recommendations to improve the NI regime for building safety; ensure a robust future regulatory system and framework; and ‘provide assurance to residents that the buildings they live in are safe’. Between 2021 and 2023 the panel's initial work was carried out, concluding in a review, published in December 2023.

The report ‘Improving Safety in High Rise Residential Buildings in Northern Ireland’, made 15 recommendations, under different themes, from culture and competency through to assessment and remediation. This was published alongside a note of 'the importance of implementing this work as rapidly as possible, and to ensure sufficiently skilled resources are provided to support these activities.'

As such the first two recommendations concerning continuation of the work referred to providing adequate resources and expertise, establishing a 'full-time building safety team (interim team)' and the delivery of a 'roadmap’ for implementing the recommendations in the report, including establishing an ‘office for building safety’ (OBS). The initial timeframe given was three months from the date of the first report, the roadmap was published in April 2024.

[edit] The purpose of the road map

The roadmap's purpose was to communicate the proposed approach and actions of the 'Residential Building Safety Division', a new department established in line with the first recommendation of the NI expert panel alongside the roadmap. It outlines how to address the recommendations of the NI Expert Panel report, considering the wider recommendations of the Hackitt Reports and ongoing work across the UK. The Roadmap is a ‘living’ document, to be amended, and updated as necessary and circulated accordingly.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency estimated that over 15,000 citizens in Northern Ireland reside in approximately 280 buildings over 11 metres high. Whilst this overall number of high-rise is relatively small in comparison to elsewhere in the UK, the group note that the 'standard of safety available to the citizen here is as significant as anywhere else.' Much like in the UK the Residential Building Safety Division acknowledge an urgent need for widespread culture change for everyone involved in the end-to-end building safety system.

NI Building safety Roadmap Department for Communities 1000.jpg

[edit] The structure of the roadmap

The roadmap is divided in to phases and work-streams. The phases outline the timeframe in which each of the fifteen recommendations of the expert panel will be tackled, and the work-streams create focus groups to tackle the different themes covered by the recommendations. The phases outline are

To create specialist resources to tackle the various issues the roadmap is divided into work streams to tackle specific areas highlighted by the expert panels' recommendations. Initially these are:

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