Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
May 17, 2018

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WATCH: Grenfell report findings plus LFB backs rejection of combustible cladding ban

Dame Judith Hackitt has delivered her final recommendations for improving fire safety in the built environment – particularly for high-rise residential buildings.

The independent review of building regulations was set up by the UK government in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 71 people died in June 2017.

Below is a video summarising the findings of Dame Judith, a former engineer and chair the Health and Safety Executive. These include prescriptions for a new regulator and diagnoses of myriad shortcomings in regulations, processes and culture.

The review was also noteworthy for a recommendation that it did not include – one that has dismayed some MPs, architects and support groups for Grenfell survivors.

In rejecting calls to outright ban use of combustible cladding in construction, Dame Judith said: “The guidance already says that the only type of cladding that you can use on high-rise buildings must either be of limited combustibility or must be subject to a full test. To make this effective you have to go beyond simply simply specifying what can and can’t be used.”

The LFB backed Hackitt’s stance over the issue.

“We understand why many would want materials such as ACM cladding banned but The Brigade agrees with Dame Judith Hackitt’s conclusion this would not help safety in the long term,” said Dan Daly, the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety.

“It’s more important that the review concentrates on appropriate testing regimes for building materials, tighter regulations and ensuring that competent people are making decisions about building safety.

“Context is as important as raw materials when it comes to making buildings safe. For example, a type of material used in a low rise office block could be safe but dangerous if used in a high rise block.”

However, the Government has since announced a consultation on banning combustible cladding in tower blocks.

“Once in generation opportunity”

The London Fire Brigade welcomed proposals to increase its own role in building safety and urged the Government to act quickly on Hackitt’s recommendations.

“We have a once in generation opportunity to save lives by ensuring buildings are built and maintained with proper fire safety measures and so we are very pleased that Dame Judith has included so many of our recommendations,”  said Daly.

“It took the Grenfell Tower tragedy for the fire safety of buildings to be taken seriously. Fundamental change is outlined and the Government must now take this forward without undue delay to ensure we have robust legislation and regulation in place to make buildings safer.”

The UK ranks 34th in the world when it comes to resilience to fire

The 2018 FM Global Resilience Index reveals that the UK ranks 34th in the world when it comes to resilience to fire – not entirely impressive for the country with the world’s fifth highest GDP. It puts the UK behind Russia (21st) Bulgaria (24th), Bosnia and Herzegovina (26th), Greece (10th), Poland (13th) and Turkey (17th).

Tom Roche, senior consultant for international codes and standards at FM Global, commented on Hackitt’s findings. “While the Hackitt Review provides some clarity over who is responsible for what and when, it’s disappointing not to see a direct call for current technical guidelines to be reviewed.

“Instead, it looks like the government will be pushing more responsibility onto industry to ensure building safety. Pushing responsibility onto industry without issuing updated technical guidance is likely to create further confusion for building owners who are typically looking to government guidelines and building standards to make sure they are compliant.

“Hackitt also falls short of calling for a ban on combustible materials which many expected, again relying on the sector do the right thing based on outcomes and pushing the responsibility onto industry to trace and test materials.

“Whilst this is a good long term approach we have to at the present. It’s even more imperative that the Government takes responsibility for updating technical guidance for the industry to use in the short term.”

“Hackitt’s report focuses heavily on high rise residential buildings. No doubt this is an important area post-Grenfell.

“However, Grenfell exposed multiple failings across the UK’s fire safety systems that were not just specific to high rise buildings. When it comes to fire safety, we need the same level of rigour to be applied to all buildings, including homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces, many of which are low rise buildings.

“What is clear from this review is that rather than waiting indefinitely for the government to provide answers, building owners need to get ahead of the issues and have a fire safety strategy in place. If there’s a material they are unsure about the safety of, they shouldn’t delay for the Government to make recommendations, they should get it looked at now.”

A judge-led inquiry into the Grenfell fire will start taking evidence from 21 May.

Brian Robinson CBE, QFSM, FSF President, Fire Sector Federation, will deliver a keynote address on the Hackitt Report at FIREX 2018The fire sector response to Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety will take place on 19 June, between 10.45-11.15am, in the FIREX Expertise & Guidance Theatre at London ExCeL.


The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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