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Will the tragedy of Grenfell finally lead to change in building and fire safety legislation?

“The ABI has been calling for changes to buildings regulations since 2009 that would improve fire safety and it is terribly sad it took such a tragic event to bring about change” – James Dalton – ABI Director of General Insurance Policy

In light of the failures identified through testing carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the government commissioned an urgent, independent review of building and fire safety regulations to be led by Dame Judith Hackett.

Working with the input of other relevant stakeholders and other government departments, the report will attempt to consider the current regulatory system and its application to new/existing buildings, the balance of responsibilities within the system, coherence of the current system and how it operates in practice, how the system compares with its international counterparts and recommendations to ensure the system is fit for purpose moving forwards.

The final report is due in Spring 2018 but all initial indications would point to reform – with the Construction Industry Council’s (CIC) submission stating that “The CIC feels strongly that critical issues of life safety, including building safety, should not be subject to constraints such as a political objective of reducing regulatory burden on business in general”.

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) meanwhile highlighted their concern around the current building and fire safety regulations in terms of both clarity and responsibility, surmising “In many cases, there are multiple people and organisations dealing with the building and none of them accept responsibility for being the ‘responsible’ person”.  The ABI seems to back this up by labelling the current regulations “confusing and outdated” and in need of greater clarity.

Additionally, it seems that the consequences and response to the Grenfell Tower disaster are not just limited to social housing tower blocks but across construction as an entity.  Our consultancy clients are reporting a significant increase in the inspection and re-inspection of all forms of cladding across other public sector buildings such as hospitals and schools and across the private sector in sports arenas and retail outlets.  Which let’s face it, can only be a good thing.

It seems that the call for regulation change will be ignored no longer and while it will bring little comfort to those involved in Grenfell or relatives of the victims – at least some good may come from it and prevent similar incidents in the future.