An independent review of the Building Regulations and fire safety has been announced by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government. This follows the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London, which raised serious questions about the fire safety of high-rise residential buildings and led to subsequent Government testing of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding installed on similar buildings across the country.
The first results from large-scale tests of building cladding systems have also been published. These latest tests simulate a tall building and allow experts to better understand how different types of cladding panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire.
The first system tested – a wall cladding system using an ACM cladding with unmodified polyethylene filler (Category 3) and foam insulation – failed the test which is set out in current Building Regulations guidance.
Immediate action is already underway to ensure the safety of residents in affected buildings, but the results also make clear that professionals need to understand how the current Building Regulations and fire safety work in order to make them as effective as possible in the future.
This forward-looking independent review, to be led by Dame Judith Hackitt (chair of EEF), will look at current Building Regulations and fire safety with a particular focus on high-rise residential buildings and report jointly to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Specifically, the review process will examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and ongoing management of buildings in relation to fire safety, related compliance and enforcement issues and international regulation and experience in this area.
Learning the lessons from Grenfell Tower
Sajid Javid said: “Since the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government has been working to make sure people living in high-rise buildings are safe. It’s clear we need to urgently look at the Building Regulations and fire safety. This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements. Government is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and ensure nothing like it can happen again.”
As part of the review, Dame Judith will consult the Building Regulations Advisory Committee – which advises the Government on changes to the Building Regulations – as well as the construction and housing industry, the fire sector, international experts, MPs and the public. The review will also work closely with other Government departments and the devolved administrations and consider the implications of changes to the regulatory system on other Government objectives.
Dame Judith Hackitt explained: “I’m honoured to be asked by Government to lead this important independent review. This review will look at the Building Regulations and fire safety to see what changes can be made for the future to make them more effective. I’m keen to engage widely with industry and the public to inform the recommendations from the review. I want the recommendations to lead to any necessary improvements in the system being made.”
Terms of Reference for this independent review will be published shortly once the Terms of Reference for the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry have been agreed. It’s expected that the review will present an interim report before the end of the year, with a final report being published no later than Spring 2018.
The Government has promised to act swiftly on any recommendations from this review to make sure people living in high-rise buildings are safe at all times.