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UK Officials Issued Fire Safety Memo

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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A United Kingdom official has released a memo to council chiefs that highlights their fire safety responsibilities in the wake of Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report that was released in December.

Housing ministry deputy divisional director Offer Stern-Weiner wrote to officials across England and Wales instructing them to consult with fire services as soon as possible when designing new buildings.

Natalie Oxford, CC-SA-BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A United Kingdom official has released a memo to council chiefs that highlights their fire safety responsibilities in the wake of Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report that was released in December.

Hackitt’s preliminary report (issued in the wake of the fatal Grenfell Tower fire last June) outlines several recommendations for a system that was found “not fit for purpose,” including three recommendations specifically aimed at the building control system.

Stern-Weiner outlines those recommendations as follows:

  • Consultation by building control bodies and by those commissioning or designing buildings should take place early in the process and fire and rescue service advice should be taken into account.
  • There is a need for building control bodies to do more to assure that fire safety information for a building is provided by the person carrying out the building work to the person responsible for the building in occupation.
  • Building developers need to ensure there is a formal review and handover process ahead of occupation of any part of a new high-rise residential building.

“In particular, local authorities would need the views of the fire and rescue authority before approving a full plans application under section 16 of the Building Act,” said Stern-Weiner. “Observations made by the fire and rescue authority that are relevant to compliance with Building Regulations should be given full consideration by the building control body.”

The Review

Hackitt, a chemical engineer, is calling for a complete overhaul of the construction industry, citing conflicts of interest.

“There are notable concerns also that third-party inspections are open to abuse given the potential conflict of interests, with growing levels of mutual dependence between developers and contracted inspectors,” the report said.

Hackitt said that the way regulations are written is also causing a problem. Partly because there are too many opportunities for loopholes and shortcuts, but also because many are made to be more complex then they need to be, resulting in a lack of understanding on how to enforce—or even look for—certain requirements.

“It’s a combination of the two,” Hackitt said during an interview with the BBC. “When regulations are complex it makes it quite difficult for people to penetrate that complexity to truly understand what they are required to do. … There are issues of competence to be addressed as part of this.”

She also called for an end to cost-cutting on materials, a practice that often leads to a situation in which the building that is designed is not the one that’s built.

Though much of the reaction to the initial report was positive, the Royal Institute of British Architects criticized Hackitt for not banning certain materials outright.

Hackitt said that the next phase of the review for the final report, which is due in the coming months, will look closer at specifics such as cladding, building design and sprinkler/alarm systems.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fire; Fireproofing; Regulations

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