system of building regulations

The whole system of building regulations is “not fit for purpose” and allows those who want to take shortcuts to do so, Dame Judith Hackitt has warned

In an interim report as part of her review of the building regulations and fire safety, the former chair of the Health & Safety Executive said she was “shocked” at some of the practices she has seen.

The independent review was commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell fire, which claimed the lives of 71 people.

“There is plenty of good practice but it is not difficult to see how those who are inclined to take shortcuts can do so,” Dame Judith said.

“Change control and quality assurance are poor throughout the process. What is initially designed is not what is being built and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking.”

She is calling for a new “intelligent” system of regulation and enforcement for high-rise and complex buildings, which will “hold to account those who try to cut corners”.

She added that widespread cultural and behavioural change is also needed to put an end to “the mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems to others”.

“Changes to the regulatory regime will help, but on their own will not be sufficient unless we can change the culture away from one of doing the minimum required for compliance to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the lifecycle of a building,” Dame Judith said.

The interim report sets out six broad areas for change:

  • Ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous.
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe.
  • Improving levels of competency within the industry.
  • Improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations.
  • Creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to.
  • Improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction.

In a written ministerial statement, communities secretary Sajid Javid said Dame Judith’s interim report “provides a strong foundation for the next phase of the review”.

“We will continue to work with Dame Judith and other partners over the coming months as she finalises her recommendations,” he added.

The final report is expected in the spring.

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