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BESA seeks broad scope for building regulations review

Association’s technical director says response to Grenfell fire must ensure meaningful and wide reaching changes

Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) Technical Director Tim Rook hopes the recently announced government-backed review of building regulations launched following the Grenfell Tower fire will have a sufficiently broad remit to meet key compliance and safety issues.

Rook said that the association would like to see a process that fully engages the industry to make the most of its expertise and knowledge over the coming months, with BESA now actively working as much as possible on its own response.

“We will try and be as active as possibly can, because this is the first review, the first opportunity for a meaningful review, for quite a number of years. So we should take advantage of that and we very much hope government is going to listen,” he added.

Rook said that the Grenfell Tower fire represented a terrible situation that would dominate industry thinking on safety and compliance going forward, amidst a broader backdrop of challenges facing the building services industry such as skills and sustainability issues.

He noted that compliance would need to be a key area of focus during the review in areas such as HVAC, cooling and other construction-focused activities.

Rook maintained that it was important to ensure that industry stakeholders can respond sufficiently to the review, regardless of the size of their operations.

This would be vital to consider how industry “contracts, procures and assesses work to make sure it is done properly”, he argued.

Rook also identified opportunities for overhauling the assignment of responsibility across the industry to improve clarity about who the specific duty holders are in all projects relating to building services.

“This is so we can make sure the people who are responsible know they are responsible,” he said.

On July 28, the government formally announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, that will also look at issues of related compliance and enforcement.

It aims to publish the findings for government to act on no later than spring 2018. Led by Dame Judith Hackitt, current Chair of EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation, the review will specifically look at the regulatory system as it relates to design, construction and building maintenance.

In announcing the review, the DCLG anticipates that the exact terms of reference for the study should be out during the summer of 2017. This is expected to follow the finalisation of the terms concerning the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in June.

Considering the relatively short timescales for the review to be undertaken and completed, Rook expressed hope that it would retain a broad scope so to better tackle issues across building and construction that will impact players of all sizes.

“If it was broad it would take a very long time to do it. So the danger is [government] suddenly goes ‘Oh we can’t do that, we will do a little bit and tweak some stuff,’ which would be a missed opportunity”, he said.

Rook said that business regulations had the scope to affect a wide spread of individuals including the ‘one man in a van’ industry represented by plumbers and electricians, which has significant ground level experience of challenges and concerns about current regulations.

Any failure to ensure these voices were heard could lead to big gaps concerning existing knowledge around building services

Not surprisingly, Rook argued for a key role for trade associations to try and gauge opinions and concerns of their members as opposed to solely taking into account organisations with stronger lobbying clout such as the UK’s core energy companies and major installers.

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