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Dame Judith Hackitt: Industry accepts drastic need to overhaul “broken” regulations

Next phase of building regulations review will seek to establish industry-led workstreams to identify key areas of reforms such as product testing and project responsibility

Dame Judith Hackitt has said there is widespread consensus within the construction industry of the need for radical reform of the current broken regulatory system for high-rise and complex buildings.

The comments were made following a summit with 50 individuals from across the industry that has set out the next steps for overhauling current practice around how buildings are constructed, managed and maintained over the entirety of their lifecycle.

Dame Judith, who is leading an independent review of building regulations and fire safety that was launched following the Grenfell Tower fire, said the summit had been positive in recognising common challenges facing the industry that were outlined in initial findings from her review. The highly critical early findings were published in December.

She said, “We now need to agree both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of delivering the transformational change which is needed.”

The summit identified a number of broad focuses with the aim of delivering a cultural change around behaviour and attitudes to safety in building services and the wider construction industry.

Organisations will now be chosen to help push forward new approaches to defining new methods of assigning responsibility for maintaining safe buildings across the entirety of their lifecycle, as well as a focus on industry leadership.

It is understood that Dame Judith over the next month will identify so called ‘workstreams’ identifying how to tackle these concerns. ‘Lead organisations’ will then be appointed by March to review considerations such as product testing and the effectiveness of current government oversight and set out recommendations for possible changes.

These workstreams will aim to establish how industry and regulators can fully embed building safety concepts into the design and construction process. Discussions will also centre on how building and land owners should be required to ensure safety considerations are prioritised in their properties. All teams chosen for the project will be overseen by the review panel that will then compile the findings into a final set of reformations published in the spring.

Other issues that the review expects to tackle include whether central government ownership of technical guidance is the most appropriate method for defining best practice for complex and high-risk buildings and ensuring they are in line with regulations.

Dame Judith has also called for new approaches to how residents can be provided with a more streamlined and effective route to raise concerns they may have on fire safety.

Industry body BuildUK said it welcomed the initiative and pledged to work as part of a broader industry approach to address the early concerns raised through the independent review.

As part of an ‘Industry Response Group’ established in July, BuildUK said it was already undertaking work looking at capacity and capability of cladding installers as part of considerations around industry competence. Meanwhile, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) was looking at fire safety qualifications and accreditation that will feed into the review’s final recommendations.

Interim findings

The review’s interim findings published shortly before Christmas were uncompromising in their language and conclusions about the inadequacy of a whole host of regulations. Her initial concerns included overly complicated guidance and huge numbers of Approved Documents that contractors often read in isolation, as well as key safety functions with no standards for competence.

Dame Judith also highlighted significant confusion in defining who was responsible for a building or specific work carried out on a site.

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