In a recent article for PBC Today, Paul Wilkins of the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors claimed that while the Hackitt Review would do a lot to improve building safety, it was wrong to call for approved inspectors to be excluded from inspecting high-rise residential blocks. Here, Paul Everall, chief executive of Local Authority Building Control, gives his response – and argues that the industry must accept the need for change
Paul Wilkins of the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors claimed in his recent article for Planning & Building Control Today that Dame Judith Hackitt got a lot right in her report into building regulations and fire safety – but was wrong about the role of approved inspectors.
However, I believe we must get behind the report’s call for root-and-branch reform.
Dame Judith was absolutely clear: “What is described in this report is an integrated systemic change not a shopping list of changes which can be picked out on a selective basis.”
This is a view supported by most of the key players in the construction and fire safety industry, including the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Building Research Establishment and the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Dame Judith recognised the need for a complete culture shift and that competition in regulation had led to a race to the bottom, where it is possible to choose the least amount of regulation at the least cost.
The ACAI’s solution is to keep that competition in place – which is exactly the opposite of what Dame Judith is trying to achieve.
In his article, Paul Wilkins makes the argument that there are “many other industries where the private sector is incorporated into the regulatory system, including automotive (MOTs), aviation (Airworthiness Checking)…”
But these industries have a single regulator with real teeth – the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority respectively.
Carrying on with a dual system with competition between regulatory bodies, as the ACAI envisages, would be a betrayal of the Hackitt principles and not represent the change that is so desperately needed. It would continue the systemic fault in our industry, where commercially compromised regulation sees safety margins engineered out and corners cut.
More than 14 months on from the tragedy that hit the residents of Grenfell Tower, some people are still playing by the old rules. It’s time to acknowledge the new reality – and stop defending the indefensible old system. We need change in the industry and we need it now.