Just as everyone’s thoughts were switching to mince pies and Christmas pudding, the government released ‘Building a safer future: an implementation plan’ on the 18th December. It is their official response to the independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt that highlighted the need for fundamental reform of the building regulations and fire safety system.
Building for a safer future: the implementation plan
The implementation plan sets out the programme of works the government intend to undertake to address the problem spanning four key areas;
- “A stronger more effective regulatory and accountability framework”
- “Clearer Standards and guidance”
- A stronger voice for residence
- Culture change and prioritising public safety
Intention to Review Approved Document L, F and M
The government had previously committed to carrying out a full review of Approved Document B and whilst many had expected others to follow, it was confirmed in the plan the government’s intentions to carry out a review of Approved Document L (Conservation of fuel and power), Approved Document F (Ventilation) and Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings), that will be in line with the spirit of the recommendations of the Reviews Final Report.
PCA lobbying for building regulation change
The PCA has been lobbying for a review of Approved Document F to ensure that greater focus is placed upon existing buildings and we very much welcome this review. The vast majority of housing stock in the UK is over 20 years old and we feel that the building regulations should ensure that individuals be entitled to live in a properly ventilated building.
As we have previously commented, a strong theme throughout Dame Hackitt’s final review was the importance of competent contractors and enforcement of the building regulations. This is something that the PCA strongly advocates throughout all sectors and has included proof of this as part of its membership criteria for contractor members within the residential ventilation sector.
The need for Cultural Change
The review strongly urges the need for cultural change, and in response, the Government has issued a clarion call: “everyone must step up and play their part in creating the right culture and behaviours so that safety is prioritised in the future. The Government recognises that fundamental culture change will not be easy. That is why we are proposing a new regulatory framework to drive real culture change and the right behaviours. The changes proposed in the implementation plan will have a profound effect across the built environment and in the upkeep and maintenance of buildings”.
How far do they intend to go with the regulation changes?
One area which is a little confusing however, is how far they intend to go with these measures. Are they solely looking at implementing these measures for high rise and risk structures, or do they see the issues being more widespread within the industry?
If they are after the fundamental shift in the culture they need to think big and ensure that they look at the whole of the sector and not just high rise in isolation. Whilst the Hackitt report clearly recognises “underpinning cultural problems” such as “ignorance” and “indifference”, these are not problems exclusive to high rise and we hope that the government identifies this. They do appreciate that this will not be easy and that it will have a profound effect in the upkeep and maintenance of buildings.
A thirst for building regulation change?
Looking at this cynically a significant part of the document is being used to emphasise the actions the government has taken in the wake of the tragic events of Grenfell. However, we hope that momentum gets behind the desire for change and is the catalyst for safer buildings not only from a fire perspective but also to ensure ventilation and air quality are given equal consideration.
From the final report to the Governments response, it is clear that there is a thirst for change within the construction industry and that has to be driven from within. Many large construction companies have already pledged to support the change in the form of the Early Adopters Programme including Keir, Wilmot Dixon and Barratt Developments PLC.
To many these changes will not come as a surprise. The PCA has long been considered at the forefront of the preservation industry. We strongly believe that the route and stance we have taken for and on behalf of our members in embracing the opportunity for change, will ultimately ensure that members continue to be the champions of best practice.