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Grenfell Tower inquiry to consider high rise construction regulations

Separate review of building regulations expected to feed into work to understand cause of fire that has killed at least 80 people

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire will consider the scope and adequacy of regulations relating to high rise buildings, construction standards, as well as overall compliance with relevant legislation and guidance among its core focuses.

Retired judge Sir Martin-Moore Bick, who is leading the inquiry, has now detailed the final terms of the inquiry process that will look at the cause and spread of the fire in June that has killed at least 80 people.

Alongside focusing on the fire itself and the response of local authorities and other organisations to the disaster, the inquiry will also consider factors such as the construction and refurbishment work that has taken place at Grenfell Tower, as well as the building’s overall design.

A first public hearing has been set for September 14, with individuals and organisations also expected to be given the chance to present evidence during the ongoing process.

The original deadline for feedback on the terms of the inquiry had been extended until August 4 amidst criticism from some quarters over the scale and terms of its work.

At the same time as the inquiry, the government has also formally announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety that will also look at broader issues of related compliance and enforcement.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the full scope of this independent review would be finalised after the terms of the public inquiry were set.

Accepting the terms of reference today to the inquiry, Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the focus on construction issues and regulation, as well as the broader response to the fire and its aftermath.

“The terms of reference you set out in your letter address the crucial issues of the cause and spread of the fire; the design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower; the scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations, legislation and guidance; the actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy and the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire,” said the prime minister.

It will also look at how local and central government responded after the fire.

The prime minister said she also expected the independent review of building regulations to “feed into” the inquiry with a view to determining immediate issues potentially facing tenants in social housing, as well as broader common concerns and the best national approach to them.

The focus and outcome of both processes will be hugely significant for business service providers, with organisations such as the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) urging government to ensure an as broad as possible approach to reviewing building regulations.

The fire has put a spotlight in particular on standards such as acceptable cladding and insulation materials, as well as raising questions for some business services suppliers about how they introduce and maintain new technology.

Some HVAC stakeholders are understood to be in the process of completing longstanding work to introduce more formalised standardisation for the introduction and maintenance of heating systems such as boilers.

As H&V News has earlier reported, the problems being uncovered following Grenfell have not surprised many fire and buildings experts, who have long argued that fire measures are not well enough understood throughout the construction process and that responsibilities often get lost.

A particular ongoing concern among the HVAC industry has been to ensure that everyone on site understands the importance of correctly sealing penetrations in fire compartments.

A more in-depth look at the HVAC industry’s calls for root-and-branch reform to regulations in response to Grenfell can be found in the August 2017 digital edition of H&V News here.

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