The government has announced measures to speed up the process of removing potentially unsafe cladding on private sector high rise residential buildings after it emerged that the number of tall private buildings thought to be fitted with flammable cladding had risen.
In May, data from the government’s Building Safety Programme showed that 138 private sector residential buildings contained harmful cladding. However, this month’s figures reveal that the number has increased to 297. The cladding status of around 170 private tall buildings is “still to be confirmed”, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said.
This comes after the assessment of more than 6,000 buildings by local authorities following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.
“Ministers have been clear that building owners are responsible for making buildings safe and local authorities have also started enforcement action in all but a handful of cases to compel them to take action,” MHCLG stated.
Remediation work is underway on 21 of the affected buildings with four complete. The government said it was “determined to accelerate the pace of this work” with its package of measures which include:
- A new task force to oversee a national programme of private sector remediation and ensure plans are in place “for every single building affected”. Chaired by ministers, members will include Local Government Association (LGA), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), industry representatives and local authorities that have experienced the greatest impact.
- A new inspection team, comprising experts from environmental health, building control and fire inspection who will provide support to individual councils to make sure building owners act accordingly and accelerate the remediation process.
- An industry roundtable set for July, allowing representatives to present their proposals on solutions to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings without transferring costs to leaseholders. Meanwhile, MHCLG said it would continue to explore other routes for protecting leaseholders.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire said: “The safety of residents is my main priority and fire and rescue services are working with building owners to ensure residents are safe now. But I want to see swifter progress in removing unsafe cladding which is why I have announced further action to support councils as they work with owners of high-rise blocks.”
Grenfell changed everything for the fire safety and protection industry, it is up to the whole industry to learn and act from it and ensure that it never happens again. Along with the Construction Products Association (CPA), Kemwell Fire International Ltd. have welcomed the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
The CPA was very involved in the findings of the Review and were asked to Chair:
- Working Group 3: Regulations and Guidance
and also contribute to:
- Working Sub-Group 1 & 2: Golden Thread
- Working Group 6: Quality Assurance and Products.
Dr Diana Montgomery, Construction Products Association Chief Executive, said: “The Independent Review led by Dame Judith Hackitt has outlined the clear responsibilities necessary to ensure a disaster like this can never happen again. The Construction Products Association fully supports the Review’s recommendations and looks forward to continuing our work with government, our members and the construction industry to roll out the implementation programme.”
Peter Caplehorn, Construction Products Association Deputy Chief Executive and Chair of the Review’s Regulations and Guidance Working Group, added: “This is an important chance for the entire construction industry to show we are ready for an overhaul of how high-rise, high-risk buildings are designed and built, and ultimately how we are held to account. Any reforms which can provide greater clarity on how buildings meet safety requirements and the technical attributes of the products that go into them are much needed. Furthermore, the recommendations’ emphasis on creating a digital record of a construction project will go a long way to addressing the impact of product substitution and value engineering, quality of training and poor installations.”
Recommendations of the report include:
- Focus: the Review has focused its recommendations on buildings where there is a high level of risk to human safety in the event of the building being dangerous or catching fire. The primary focus is on high rise residential accommodation, but the Review also notes there are other types of buildings where there are risks due to people sleeping overnight, such as hospitals and residential care homes. It proposes a new regulatory regime to cover these buildings.
- New Regulatory Body: this is not proposing structural changes to existing organisations, but ensuring a more effective integration of the functions currently undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive, the local authority building control functions and the fire brigades, to ensure that there is greater co-ordination and communication about high-rise residential buildings. The Review also supports the use of digital technologies to provide comprehensive information about buildings and to help to manage these throughout their life cycle.
- New regulatory framework: this will aim to ensure both that designs are safe and that what was designed and specified is actually built, with limited scope to change this, and any changes to the agreed brief requiring approval. This will apply to both new build and major refurbishment projects.
- Duty Holder: this will create a requirement for a named individual to be responsible for ensuring building safety during every phase of the lifecycle of a building, from design through to management whilst it is occupied, with clear points of transition for the handing over of responsibilities between the designer, contractor and owner.
- Construction Product Safety: this makes proposals for a tighter testing regime, the disclosure of test data and more information about products, and a requirement for the regular retesting of construction products to ensure safety. How this should be delivered remains open, including the possibility responsibility could be given to the Office of Product Safety.
- Resident’s Concerns: there are recommendations on ensuring resident’s concerns can be easily raised, and how these can be escalated to the new regulator if a building owner does not act on them.
- Competency: this aims to ensure there will be an increased emphasis on safety in professional and occupational training for those in occupations relating to fire safety or who need a knowledge of this to undertake their roles within the new system, working with the organisations that lead on professional and vocational training.
In late January 2018, the Construction Products Association (CPA) attended a summit held by Dame Judith Hackitt with other senior bodies across the construction supply chain to discuss how to take forward the recommendations from the Interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
Kemwell Fire International Ltd. fully supports the review of fire safety in order to avoid future tragic events as we saw last year with Grenfell. It is vital that the whole industry comes to together to get it right.
In a press release published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government following the summit, six areas were identified as requiring a change to develop innovative solutions. Since then the work streams have been expanded to the following:
- Working Group 1 – Construction and Design
- Working Group 1b – Procurement
- Working Group 2 – Occupation and Maintenance
- Working Group 1&2 – Golden Thread
- Working Group 3 – Regulations and Guidance
- Working Group 4 – Competence
- Working Group 5 – Residents’ Voice
- Working Group 6 – Quality Assurance and Products.
CPA has been invited to join three working groups: Regulations and Guidance; Golden Thread; and Quality Assurance and Products.
The objectives for each of these meetings are broad, and working groups have been set a tight deadline to submit a response that is as specific and well considered as possible by the end of March. The Final Report is on a path to be published in May 2018.
As well as the work CPA is doing towards the working groups, work for the Industry Response Group is still ongoing. The CPA’s Technical Expert Panel has been integral in the feedback CPA relay to MHCLG, both in responding to key questions regarding capacity and also informing and keeping topics high on the agenda pertinent to both the products industry and the wider sector.
Peter Caplehorn, CPA Deputy Chief Executive, who is leading the CPA’s efforts on Grenfell, commented: “Avoiding a repeat of Grenfell is paramount within the minds of all who share in the responsibility for specifying, installing, inspecting and managing the fire performance of our built environment.
“It is, therefore, crucial that those engaged in the manufacture, testing and installation of fire critical products and systems are able to present appropriate guidance to ensure that any future regulatory process is sufficiently robust.
“The CPA Technical Expert Panel has been formed to act as an essential conduit between the manufacturing sector, other key bodies and Government agencies to enable this vital flow of information and guidance.”
Currently, the Technical Expert Panel membership is as follows:
- Association for Specialist Fire Protection
- British Woodworking Federation
- Centre for Window and Cladding Technology
- Council for Aluminium in Building
- Finishes & Interiors Sector
- Glass & Glazing Federation
- Insulation Manufacturers Association, European Phenolic Foam Association and Engineered Panels In Construction
- Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association
- The Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers’ Association
Given the importance of the Technical Expert Panel, CPA will be reviewing the TEP in due course to ensure the membership matches the agenda and topics.