The Hackitt Review – Fixing a broken system

The publication of the Independent Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety, ‘Building a Safer Future’ marks the first steps, Post-Grenfell, for industry to recover the confidence of the public in the safety of the buildings that they live or work in. Although major disasters like Grenfell are thankfully rare, the findings of the Hackitt Review point to multiple weaknesses in regulation, competence and allocation of responsibility on building projects. This has undermined the confidence of many of our stakeholders in the integrity and safety of buildings. As an industry, we need to rebuild this trust as quickly as possible.

Grenfell tower

The Review highlights the importance of the design stage in the new framework to drive building safety. It also highlights the importance of gateways at multiple stages in design, construction and operation to demonstrate that tall and complex buildings are safe. The specific role of procurement is flagged up, not only as a potential failure point, but also as an opportunity to encourage the delivery of better buildings which deliver better lifetime value.

The challenge requires a fundamental re-casting of relationships within the industry, requiring clients and their teams to take direct ownership of building safety. Up until now, this responsibility has often been passed down the chain – making it much harder for the industry to control the quality of its product throughout its life. The Review highlights the complex systems that we use to define the brief, design, construct, operate and re-purpose buildings and infrastructure. Our industry’s inability to assure and demonstrate that all parties, owners, constructors or operators have taken responsibility for their part in the process lies at the heart of the broken business model highlighted by the Grenfell tragedy.

The recommendations in Building a Safer Future cover all parts of industry – from regulations, roles, product testing and competence – and includes specific recommendations to ensure that residents have an effective, no-risk voice.  It is difficult to think of any part of industry remaining unchanged post-publication – assuming of course that government acts on the Review and that industry does its part in driving its own change.

The Review Team have worked fast in developing their report. The review’s recommendations now require both government and industry to accelerate this momentum and to take ownership. Our sector needs to act quickly, focusing on how we change the way responsibility is divided on projects, and working with the government and the supply chain to ensure that we all understand how we can properly fulfil our roles. Dame Judith emphasises that our industry is a system, and whilst most of us care deeply about the quality and safety of the buildings and infrastructure that we deliver, we must ensure that collectively we have done what is required and can demonstrate that buildings are safe for the people who live in them and use them.

Building a Safer Future calls for cultural change at the scale of the Health and Safety revolution.  Going forward we must all play our role in providing greater transparency to demonstrate industry accountability. To regain the trust of our clients and stakeholders and to maintain our industry’s licence to operate, this process must start now and must be started by us, not by government.

Edel Christie

Managing Director, Buildings Ask me a question
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