The Hackitt Report – A New Beginning for the Construction Industry
In the early hours of the 14 June 2017 a fire spread through Grenfell Tower. 71 people died and many more had their homes and lives destroyed. It quickly became apparent that multiple corporate and institutional factors contributed to the catastrophe, and that a formal review should be carried out to learn as much as possible about how to eliminate these flaws in a system on which so many lives ultimately depend.
The review was initiated by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who engaged Dame Judith Hackett to review existing Fire Safety and Building Regulations to:
- focus on Building and Fire Safety Regulations’ application to high rise residential buildings;
- make recommendations to ensure a sufficiently robust regulatory system in future; and
- provide further assurance to residents that the buildings in which they live are safe, and will remain so.
The Interim Report
An interim report was published in December 2017 and was particularly damning, concluding that “the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high – rise and complex buildings (was) not fit for purpose”. The key reasons for this were:
- Current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear.
- Clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor.
- The means of assessing and ensuring the competency of key people throughout the system is inadequate.
- There is often no differentiation in competency requirements for those working on high-rise and complex buildings.
- Compliance, enforcement and sanctions processes are too weak. What is being designed is not what is being built and there is a lack of robust change control. The lack of meaningful sanctions does not drive the right behaviours.
- The route for residents to escalate concerns is unclear and inadequate
Following the publication of the interim report Dame Judith set about the second phase of her work, looking at 6 key areas:
- Regulation and guidance
- Roles and responsibilities
- Process, compliance and enforcement
- Residents voice and raising concerns
- Quality assurance and products
The long awaited final report has now been published and makes a series of wide ranging recommendations which will have a significant impact on the construction process and those who operate in it.
The Hackitt Report – Key Recommendations
Prior to setting out her recommendations the Report makes it clear that the new proposed framework will radically enhance the existing model of responsibility so that those who “procure, design, create and maintain buildings are responsible for ensuring that those buildings are safe for those who live and work in them.” The intention is that at every stage of the process there is clear and transparent accountability, arising out of very clearly defined roles.
A series of recommendations are made in the report and, whilst the initial focus will be upon high risk residential buildings that are 10 storeys or more in height, it is anticipated that the scope of the recommendations will broaden to include a wider set of buildings.
- The creation of a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle
- A clear and identifiable duty holder with responsibility for building safety of the whole building
- More rigorous and demanding duty holder roles and responsibilities aligned to those set out in the CDM Regulations 2015
- A more streamlined regulatory approach to oversee building standards
- Clearer rights and obligations for residents
- More rigorous enforcement powers with more serious penalties for those who place residents at risk
Time scales or implementation and next steps
There is an acknowledgement in the report that implementing the proposals “may take some time” and that whilst some may be capable of being delivered in the short term, others will require primary legislation. The industry is nevertheless encouraged to start living the cultural shift that is required in bringing about the proposed changes. Given the proposals, and the very clear direction of travel that has been mapped out in the final report, we would advise those involved in the construction industry to consider:
Engaging in the process on future consultations arising out of the Hackitt Report
Reviewing current levels of “residents engagement” and how you engage with local residents on building projects
Ensuring internal documentation and workflow processes meet regulatory requirements, and updating or improving these proactively.