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Independent Review of Fire Safety

Created on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 and posted in Fire Safety Articles
Independent Review of Fire Safety

Building a Safer Future Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report

Executive summary

Overview

The interim report identified that the current system of building regulations and fire safety is
not fit for purpose and that a culture change is required to support the delivery of buildings that are safe, both now and in the future. The system failure identified in the interim report has
allowed a culture of indifference to perpetuate.

More specifically:

  • the roles and responsibilities of those procuring, designing, constructing and maintaining buildings are unclear;
  • the package of regulations and guidance (in the form of Approved Documents) can be ambiguous and inconsistent;
  • the processes that drive compliance with building safety requirements are weak and complex with poor record keeping and change control in too many cases;
  • competence across the system is patchy;
  • the product testing, labelling and marketing regime is opaque and insufficient; and
  • the voices of residents often goes unheard, even when safety issues are identified.

The new regulatory framework set out in this report must address all of these weaknesses if there is to be a stronger focus on creating and maintaining safe buildings. It must strengthen regulatory oversight to create both positive incentives to comply with building safety requirements and to effectively deter noncompliance. It must clarify roles and responsibilities. It must raise and assure competence levels, as well as improving the quality and performance of construction products. Residents must feel safe and be safe, and must be listened to when concerns about building safety are raised.

This new regulatory framework must be delivered as a package. The framework will be based around a series of interdependent, mutually reinforcing changes where one new measure drives another. In doing so it reflects the reality of most high-rise buildings which operate as a complex inter-locking system. Only this genuine system transformation will ensure that people living in high rise buildings are safe and have confidence in the safety of their building, both now and in the future.

The new framework is designed to:

  • Create a more simple and effective mechanism for driving building safety – a clear and proportionate package of responsibilities for dutyholders across the building life cycle. This means more time will be spent upfront on getting building design and ongoing safety right for the buildings in scope. This will create the potential for efficiency gains; scope for innovation in building practices; and value for money benefits from constructing a building that has longer-term integrity and robustness.
  • Provide stronger oversight of dutyholders with incentives for the right behaviours, and effective sanctions for poor performance – more rigorous oversight of dutyholders will be created through a single coherent regulatory body that oversees dutyholders’ management of buildings in scope across their entire lifecycle. A strengthened set of intervention points will be created with more effective change control processes and information provision.
  • Reassert the role of residents – a no risk route for redress will be created and greater reassurances about the safety of their home will be offered, as well as ensuring that residents understand their role and responsibilities for keeping their building safe for themselves and their neighbours.

In making these changes, the new framework will also radically enhance the current model of responsibility so that:

  • Those who procure, design, create and maintain buildings are responsible for ensuring that those buildings are safe for those who live and work in them.
  • Government will set clear outcome based requirements for the building safety standards which must be achieved.
  • The regulator will hold dutyholders to account, ensure that the standards are met and take action against those who fail to meet the requirements.
  • Residents will actively participate in the ongoing safety of the building and must be recognised by others as having a voice.

Recommendations

The recommendations for this new framework are explained over the following ten chapters of this report and are summarised below.

The key parameters of a new regulatory framework (set out in Chapter 1) will establish:

  • A new regulatory framework focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 10 storeys or more in height;
  • A new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle;
  • A mandatory incident reporting mechanism for dutyholders with concerns about the safety of a HRRB.

Improving the focus on building safety during the design, construction and refurbishment
phases (set out in Chapter 2) through:

  • A set of rigorous and demanding dutyholder roles and responsibilities to ensure a stronger focus on building safety. These roles and responsibilities will broadly align with those set out in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015;
  • A series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight that will require dutyholders to show to the JCA that their plans are detailed and robust; that their understanding and management of building safety is appropriate; and that they can properly account for the safety of the completed building in order to gain permission to move onto the next phase of work and, in due course, allow their building to be occupied;
  • A stronger change control process that will require robust record-keeping by the dutyholder of all changes made to the detailed plans previously signed off by the JCA. More significant changes will require permission from the JCA to proceed;
  • A single, more streamlined, regulatory route to oversee building standards as part of the JCA to ensure that regulatory oversight of these buildings is independent from clients, designers and contractors and that enforcement can and does take place where that is necessary. Oversight of HRRBs will only be provided through Local Authority Building Standards4 as part of the JCA, with Approved Inspectors available to expand local authority capacity/expertise or to newly provide accredited verification and consultancy services to dutyholders; and
  • More rigorous enforcement powers. A wider and more flexible range of powers will be created to focus incentives on the creation of reliably safe buildings from the outset. This also means more serious penalties for those who choose to game the system and place residents at risk.

Improving the focus on building safety during the occupation phase (set out in Chapter 3) through:

  • A clear and identifiable dutyholder with responsibility for building safety of the whole
    building. The dutyholder during occupation and maintenance should maintain the fire and structural safety of the whole building, and identify and make improvements where reasonable and practicable;
  • A requirement on the dutyholder to present a safety case to the JCA at regular intervals to check that building safety risks are being managed so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • Clearer rights and obligations for residents to maintain the fire safety of individual dwellings, working in partnership with the dutyholder. This will include a combination of transparency of information and an expectation that residents support the dutyholder to manage the risk across the whole building ; and
  • A regulator for the whole of the building (the JCA) in relation to fire and structural safety in occupation who can take a proactive, holistic view of building safety and hold dutyholders to account with robust sanctions where necessary.

Giving residents a voice in the system (set out in Chapter 4) through:

  • Providing reassurance and recourse for residents of all tenures by providing:
    • greater transparency of information on building safety;
    • better involvement in decision-making, through the support of residents associations and tenant panels; and
    • a no-risk route for residents to escalate concerns on fire safety where necessary, through an independent statutory body that can provide support where service providers have failed to take action, building on ongoing work across Government.

Setting out demanding expectations around improved levels of competence (set out in Chapter 5) through:

  • The construction sector and fire safety sector demonstrating more effective leadership for
    ensuring building safety amongst key roles including an overarching body to provide oversight of competence requirements.

Creating a more effective balance between government ownership of building standards and industry ownership of technical guidance (set out in Chapter 6) by:

  • Moving towards a system where ownership of technical guidance rests with industry as the intelligent lead in delivering building safety and providing it with the flexibility to ensure that guidance keeps pace with changing practices with continuing oversight from an organisation prescribed by government.
  • A package of regulations and guidance that is simpler to navigate but that genuinely reflects the level of complexity of the building work. This new approach will reinforce the concept of delivering building safety as a system rather than by considering a series of competing or isolated objectives.

Creating a more robust and transparent construction products regime (set out in Chapter 7) through:

  • a more effective testing regime with clearer labelling and product traceability, including a periodic review process of test methods and the range of standards in order to drive continuous improvement and higher performance and encourage innovative product and system design under better quality control. This regime would be underpinned by a more effective market surveillance system operating at a national level.

Creating a golden thread of information about each HRRB (set out in Chapter 8) by:

  • Obligating the creation of a digital record for new HRRBs from initial design intent through to construction and including any changes that occur throughout occupation. This package of building information will be used by the dutyholders to demonstrate to the regulator the safety of the building throughout its life cycle.

And in addition:

  • Tackling poor procurement practices (set out in Chapter 9) including through the roles and responsibilities set out above, to drive the right behaviours to make sure that high-safety,
    low-risk options are prioritised and full life cycle cost is considered when a building is procured;
  • Ensuring continuous improvement and bestpractice learning through membership of an international body (set out in Chapter 10).

The recommendations in this report relate predominantly to HRRBs which will be overseen by the JCA. However, it is made clear in the following chapters where the review believes that there would be merit in certain aspects of the new regulatory framework applying to a wider set of buildings.

Costs and savings associated with the new regulatory framework

These recommendations will require additional actions from those building and owning HRRBs. However, there are a number of potential benefits from this approach: for example, investing more in upfront design is likely to save financial resources later on in the process.

Research from the USA suggests that net savings in the region of 5% in the costs of the construction of newly built projects are possible where a digital record is utilised (see Chapter 8). In addition, a clearer set of roles and responsibilities could:

  • create certainty in the market in terms of what the changes look like and in both the immediate and longer term reduce risks of poor quality building work, increasing investor confidence and mitigating the likelihood of any slowing down in the pace of building work; and
  • reduce confusion between different actors over who is responsible for specific aspects of the work, and minimise the likelihood of mistakes that need to be rectified, speeding up the transaction process and potentially deliver efficiencies that manifest themselves in greater productivity.

More broadly, investing in improved competence levels could ensure that more skilled workers are able to correct errors and improve efficiency alongside ensuring compliance with the regulations. An improved product testing and marketing regime could also have additional quality benefits, for instance in ensuring sustained product performance.

Mapping the existing and future regulatory frameworks

The interim report included an outline map of the existing regulatory system insofar as it applied to the design, construction, occupation and maintenance of a high-rise residential building. Even though it did not cover all detailed scenarios, it was still highly complex – involving multiple routes, regulators, dutyholders and differing (and overlapping) sets of legislation.

The new regulatory framework for HRRBs attempts to move in the opposite direction by making
the regime significantly more straightforward and comprehensible whilst also making it more rigorous and effective. At Appendix B we have included an outline map of the new framework based on our recommendations. It is significantly simpler. This greater simplicity is because of the following key changes:

  • the same regulatory body (the JCA) oversees building safety across the building life cycle;
  • the same legislative framework applies across the building life cycle;
  • the existing overlaps between different legislation and different regulators (in particular the Housing Act 2004 and the Fire Safety Order 2005) have been removed;
  • there are no longer two parallel, but confusingly different, building control bodies providing
    oversight during design and construction;
  • there are a new set of specific JCA interventions across the building life cycle (gateway points and safety case review); and
  • self-certification processes (whereby aspects of building work can be signed off by the individuals doing the work without broader regulatory oversight) have been removed.

The report acknowledges there are some areas where complexity remains, especially around oversight of construction products. The review sets a clear direction towards eventual greater simplification although there remains much more to do.

Conclusion

Whilst the recommendations in each chapter are crucial, in isolation they will fail to achieve
the systemic change sought. The framework operates as a mutually reinforcing package and requires the implementation of its interdependent components in order for this to be achieved.

Implementing the package proposed in this report may take some time. Whilst some of the recommendations can be delivered in the short term, some will require primary legislation and in the meantime industry must start ‘living’ the cultural shift that is required – the most important element of achieving that will be leadership from within industry.

It is therefore important that government develops a joined-up implementation plan to provide a coherent approach to delivering the recommendations in this report.

The next chapter sets out some of the key parameters that underpin the new regulatory framework. The subsequent chapters set out in detail the recommendations covering each key element of change.

Read more…

Video: Key Findings from Hackitt Report


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