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BESA: Expand ‘high risk’ building safety focus beyond tall structures

Response to post-Hackitt consultation on reforming building safety standards calls to expand government definition of high-risk buildings to include properties with commercial kitchens

BESA has urged government to expand proposed reforms of fire and building safety to a wider range of high risks buildings than is presently being considered.

The building services trade body has urged government to look beyond standards for buildings that are above 18 metres high and look at a growing number of residential properties that also have commercial kitchens and food retailers based in the building.

Introducing mandatory automatic fire suppression systems in these buildings is one of several key aims that BESA said it wishes to see introduced in response to the government’s ‘Building a safer future‘ consultation. The consultation, which seeks to reform standards and regulation in line with recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, stopped taking submissions from industry and the public on July 31.

BESA chief executive David Frise has called for a more robust approach to competence and compliance in future building safety regulations that he argued need to be more ambitious in setting our clear roles and responsibilities, as opposed to a range of new rules.

He said, “This is a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the culture of our industry; starting with clients being forced to feel their responsibilities in line with Dame Judith’s recommendations.”

“Every party involved in the design, installation, operation or maintenance of a building needs to take responsibility for their input, from the design consultant to installation contractor.”.

BESA added that member feedback was used to steer its consultation response with a particular focus on addressing the complexity of existing procurement processes that can lead to confusion and supply chain disputes. Another vital issue raised by members was a need to consider competence across the whole lifecycle of a building’s operation so that standards can better be upheld and assessed.

Mr Frise argued that discussions on competence had look at the design and construction aspects of a building.

He said, “It is, therefore, welcome that the consultation included provision for the Hackitt recommendation that there be a ‘Golden Thread’ of digitally based information spanning a building’s life. This ultimately drives accountability and a focus on safety at all stages, from the beginning of the process through the entire lifecycle of a building.”

However, the organisation’s response was critical of proposals in the consultation document for the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) services as a preferred method to ensure the Golden Thread concept is realised at an industry level.

BESA said that less costly, complex digital methods were available to document work conducted in a building over its lifecycle as an alternative to BIM.

David Frise will be among the key speakers at the upcoming H&V News Future of HVAC summit taking place at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London on October 3. He will be part of a special session looking at the challenges and potential to realise a drastic reform of building safety standards following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that led to Dame Judith Hackitt’s critical review of building safety and fire regulations.

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