Britain’s building regulations are felt to be in tatters, according to a government review ordered following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In June last year, 71 people died in the fire which engulfed the 24-storey social housing building in London. The cladding is believed to have been one reason why the fire took hold so quickly. However, the report does not actually recommend banning combustible cladding on buildings like these.
Survivors of the devastating fire and some professional bodies have been calling for this type of cladding to be banned. But engineer, Judith Hackitt, who led a review into fire safety and building regulations said a ban is not sufficient. She said regulations already exist which meant that unsafe cladding should not be used on buildings. She pointed out that the problem lies with people cutting corners and not taking any notice of the existing regulations. In a BBC Radio 4 interview, she said that there is something wrong with the regulatory system. People are cutting costs, taking shortcuts and not being responsible for building safe residential properties. Following the Grenfell Tower inferno, dozens of other high-rise buildings have been examined and found to have cladding which could also be a fire risk. This has repercussions for the construction industry and landlords of such properties. The government announced it is going to spend £400 million to replace unsafe cladding on public tower blocks, which eases the burden on cash-starved local councils.
Dame Judith recommends that the building regulation system is completely overhauled. Problems should be caught during the design stage or construction, before people start moving in. If her recommendations are followed, then people would be held accountable if regulations are found to be breached. Local Government Association chairman, Lord Porter, has led calls for building regulations to be reviewed. He said he is disappointed that the review stops short of recommending that combustible materials are banned.
Under current regulations, the manufacturers of building materials do not have to declare if their products have ever failed safety checks before they are successfully passed. Dame Judith is recommending that manufacturers should have to test materials which are vital to the safety of high-rise buildings every three years. Her report also recommends that a duty holder is created, who is responsible for fire safety in each high-rise building, as well as greater liaison with residents to make sure their concerns can be heard.
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