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Hackitt Review – An Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

The independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety is being led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Its purpose is to make recommendations that will ensure we have a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future and to provide further assurance to residents that the complete system is working to ensure the buildings they live in are safe and remain so.

It is examining the building and fire safety regulatory system, with a focus on high-rise residential buildings.

The new framework is designed to:

  • Create a more simple and effective mechanism for driving building safety – a clear and proportionate package of responsibilities for dutyholders across the building life cycle. This means more time will be spent upfront on getting building design and ongoing safety right. This will create the potential for efficiency gains; scope for innovation in building practices; and value for money benefits from constructing a building that has longer-term integrity and robustness.
  • Provide stronger oversight of dutyholders with incentives for the right behaviours, and effective sanctions for poor performance – more rigorous oversight of dutyholders will be created through a single coherent regulatory body that oversees dutyholders’ management of buildings in scope across their entire lifecycle. A strengthened set of intervention points will be created with more effective change control processes and information provision.
  • Reassert the role of residents – a no-risk route for redress will be created and greater reassurances about the safety of their home will be offered, as well as ensuring that residents understand their role and responsibilities for keeping their building safe for themselves and their neighbours

Key Recommendations

A new regulatory framework focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 10 storeys or more in height, According to Land Registry and Ordnance Survey information, there are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 HRRBs. In the future a reasonable ambition might be for government to widen the definition in due course to include a wider set of residential buildings below 10 storeys or other residential buildings where people sleep (such as hospitals or care homes) which are normally less than 10 storeys high and will have vulnerable people sleeping within them.;

A new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle

A mandatory incident reporting mechanism for dutyholders with concerns about the safety of a HRRB.

Some of the key aspects of the proposed framework are;

Clear Model of Risk Ownership

This report recommends a very clear model of risk ownership, with clear responsibilities for the Client, Designer, Contractor and Owner to demonstrate the delivery and maintenance of safe buildings, overseen and held to account by a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA).

Those who procure, design, create and maintain buildings are responsible for ensuring that those buildings are safe for those who live and work in them. Government should specify the key roles that will ensure that the procurement, design and construction process results in HRRBs that are safe.

The JCA and residents must be kept notified of the name and UK-based contact information of the dutyholder (whether that is an entity or a named person). The dutyholder must nominate a named ‘building safety manager’ with relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the building and act as a point of contact for residents. The building safety manager’s name and contact information must be notified to the JCA and to residents and should be displayed in the building.

A requirement on the dutyholder to present a safety case to the JCA at regular intervals to check that building safety risks are being managed so far as is reasonably practicable. The safety case must identify the hazards and risks, describe how risks are controlled, and describe the safety management system in place.

Residents will actively participate in the ongoing safety of the building and must be recognised by others as having a voice. Clearer rights and obligations for residents to maintain the fire safety of individual dwellings, working in partnership with the dutyholder. This will include a combination of transparency of information and an expectation that residents support the dutyholder to manage the risk across the whole building.

The regulator will hold dutyholders to account, ensure that the standards are met and take action against those who fail to meet the requirements.

A series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight

A series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight that will require dutyholders to show to the JCA that their plans are detailed and robust; that their understanding and management of building safety is appropriate; and that they can properly account for the safety of the completed building in order to gain permission to move onto the next phase of work and, in due course, allow their building to be occupied. Dutyholders will be required to;

  • Satisfy the JCA that the planned building will be sufficiently accessible by the fire service, in order for the Local Planning Authority to determine the planning application in order to get permission to use the land for the intended purpose. The LPA should be required in law to undertake a consultation with the JCA where it identifies that a building is a HRRB. This process should also apply where planning permission for another building in the near vicinity is sought (where such a building might impact on fire service access to a HRRB).
  • Satisfy the JCA (who will conduct a review of the safety features of the proposed design) that their Full Plans show that key building safety risks are understood and will be managed, that robust processes are being put in place and that the design will meet all Building Regulations requirements in order to start building work. Government should ensure that there is thorough assessment by the JCA of detailed design plans for HRRBs and sufficient assurance that dutyholders are in place and relevant responsibilities are being met in order to give permission for building work to legally commence. This should be in line with paragraphs 2.29-2.32.
  • Satisfy the JCA that the signed-off design has been followed (or that any changes since that point are properly verified and acceptable) and that the completed building has met all key building safety (and other Building Regulations) requirements, that all key documents have been handed over, and a resident engagement strategy is in place in order to start occupation. the JCA undertakes a thorough test of the dutyholders’ as-built construction of HRRBs, supported by clear documentary evidence from the Principal Contractor that the design intent has been delivered as proposed (and any changes are documented and justifiable) and that handover of key golden thread information has occurred. the building owner must have completed a pre-occupation Fire Risk Assessment and resident engagement strategy. All of this must be signed off by the JCA (and a safety case review cycle established) to enable occupation to commence.

A stronger change control process that will require robust record-keeping by the dutyholder of all changes made to the detailed plans previously signed off by the JCA. More significant changes will require permission from the JCA to proceed

More rigorous enforcement powers. A wider and more flexible range of powers will be created to focus incentives on the creation of reliably safe buildings from the outset. This also means more serious penalties for those who choose to game the system and place residents at risk.

Outcomes Based Regulatory Framework

Government will set clear outcome-based requirements for the building safety standards which must be achieved.

An outcomes-based framework requires people who are part of the system to be competent, to think for themselves rather than blindly following guidance, and to understand their responsibilities to deliver and maintain safety and integrity throughout the life cycle of a building. This will create an environment where there are incentives to do the right thing and serious penalties for those who choose to game the system and as a result put the users of the ‘product’ at risk

Risk Based Approach to Regulatory Oversight

A risk-based approach to the level of regulatory oversight based on a clear risk matrix will be most effective in delivering safe building outcomes. Complex systems that are designed for residential multi-occupancy must be subject to a higher level of regulatory oversight that is proportionate to the number of people who are potentially put at risk.

Transparency of Information and Audit Trail

Transparency of information and an audit trail all the way through the life cycle of a building from the planning stage to occupation and maintenance is essential to provide reassurance and evidence that a building has been built safe and continues to be safe. For example, the current process for testing and ‘certifying’ products for use in construction is disjointed, confusing, unhelpful, and lacks any sort of transparency. Just as the process of constructing the building itself must be subject to greater scrutiny, the classification and testing of the products need to undergo a radical overhaul to be clearer and more proactive.

More effective testing regime and record keeping

A more effective testing regime with clearer labelling and product traceability, including a periodic review process of test methods and the range of standards to drive continuous improvement and higher performance and encourage innovative product and system design under better quality control. This regime would be underpinned by a more effective market surveillance system operating at a national level.

Obligating the creation of a digital record for new HRRBs from initial design intent through to construction and including any changes that occur throughout occupation. This package of building information will be used by the dutyholders to demonstrate to the regulator the safety of the building throughout its life cycle. As soon as detailed work commences the client needs to ensure that a digital record of the building work is established and a Fire and Emergency File is initiated. Both will need to be maintained throughout design and construction and be part of the regulatory oversight process. Formal handover will help enable occupation to commence. This should focus activity throughout, ensure a robust golden thread of key information is passed across to future building owners and thereby underpin more effective safety management throughout the building life cycle.

Tackling poor procurement practices including through the roles and responsibilities set out above, to drive the right behaviours to make sure that high-safety, low-risk options are prioritised and full life cycle cost is considered when a building is procured

A clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products must be developed. This should include products as they are put together as part of a system

Clear statements on what systems products can and cannot be used for should be developed and their use made essential. This should ensure significantly reduced scope for substitution of any products used in a system without further full testing. Until such time, manufacturers should ensure that they adhere to the current limitations set out in classification reports in the current regime

The scope of testing, the application of products in systems, and the resulting implications must be more clearly communicated in plain, consistent, nontechnical language.

Manufacturers must retest products that are critical to the safety of HRRBs at least every three years. Manufacturers should consider the need to test more frequently, focusing especially on the testing of products as they operate in systems rather than individual elements.

The testing of products that are critical to the safety of HRRBs should be subject to independent third party certification. Additional test houses should be established and certified. All test houses should produce an annual report providing summary details of tests carried out and the number of passes and failures reported.
The construction products industry should work together to develop and agree a consistent labelling and traceability system, making use of the digital technologies that are already available and learning from other sectors.

The review recommends that for new builds, a Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach should be phased in. BIM takes the digital techniques pioneered in other industries such as aerospace and automotive and applies them to construction. It is a process of designing, constructing or operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic, object-orientated information.

The review therefore recommends that a set of minimum building data for existing buildings is included in the safety case as set out in Chapter 3. Where information is not available and cannot be collected, the dutyholder will need to explain why this is reasonable and what steps they have taken in mitigation against the (potentially unknown) risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The key responsibilities of the JCA

a. Creating and maintaining a database of all HRRBs and key dutyholders for those buildings – whether they are in construction or are already being occupied.

b. Ensuring dutyholders focus on mitigating building safety risks during the design and construction phase, through: undertaking a series of Gateway Point interventions where the JCA would undertake a thorough assessment of dutyholders’ understanding and management of the risks they are creating (in order for dutyholders to gain permission for work to proceed or occupation to commence); undertaking an assessment of dutyholders’ oversight of the construction process by ensuring that key duties are understood, key ‘golden thread’ information products produced and proper change control processes in place.

c. Ensuring key dutyholders’ focus on reducing ongoing building safety risks during the occupation and maintenance phase, through: requiring dutyholders to provide periodic safety case reviews to demonstrate that building safety is being maintained and that residents are properly engaged (may also be triggered if a significant refurbishment is planned); requiring dutyholders to make building improvements where necessary to reduce building risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

d. Handling and assessing immediate ad-hoc building safety concerns made about specific HRRBs by others, namely: • through the mandatory reporting of safety concerns by dutyholders; through referrals made by Environmental Health Officers (EHOs); through escalated referrals made by residents of HRRBs to a new independent body.

e. Requesting testing of construction products that are critical to HRRB building safety on a reactive basis when concerns arise, including information exchanges with all HRRB dutyholders in exceptional circumstances.

f. Requesting annual reports from product testing houses providing summary details of the types of tests carried out and the numbers of passes and fails reported.

g. Helping the proposed new government body to validate and assure the guidance produced by industry to meet the outcomes-based goals of the Building Regulations.

Refurbishment

The key recommendations in this chapter should be taken to equally apply in both a new build and a refurbishment scenario.

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