Firms Sign Up As Fire Safety Early Adopters

14 Jan 2019

Published in: Building, January 2019

The country's biggest housebuilder and second-biggest contractor are among firms that have signed up to the government's early adopters programme lo trial new systems a head of further changes to the Building Regulations in the wake of the Hack1tt review, writes Willing.

Last month, within its response to Dame Judith Hackitt 's review of building regulations and fire safety, the government announced Barratt had been joined by Wates, social housing firm Peabody and United Living as part of an initiative to trial planned changes.

The four follow Kier, which joined the early adopters programme in. July along with Willmott Dixon and housing associations L&Q and Salix Homes. The firms will work with the Joint Regulators Group (JRG), which is looking at ways to actively monitor building safety in the construction industry following last year's Grenfell tower fire in west London.

The JRG includes existing regulators and public bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive and
the National Fire Chie fs Council, which will work with firms to look at how safety standards in construction can be better regulated. The firms are also trying new document management systems for buildings in their portfolios and trialling technologies to manage supply chains and establish a record of a building's make-up.

This includes using BIM to manage the supply chain and maintain a "golden thread" of information, a key recommendation of last year's Hackitt review. The government also said progress had been made by the competence steering group set up in June. This group of industry representatives is tasked with developing proposals for a regulator to ensure those working on buildings are competent.

The government said just before Christmas that it would fully implement the recommendations made by Hackitt in her review in the wake of2017's Grenfell Tower fire. In his foreword to the government's response, housing secretary James Brokenshire said he is pushing for a "culture change" towards a more safety-orientated construction industry.

"My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules," he added. This means government will challenge unsatisfactory firms, including through support of local authority enforcement action. It could also mean the government legislates to ensure the competence of those carrying out building work.

The government's response to Hackitt also said a standards committee would be established to advise on product standards.

A number of key areas are still due to be consulted on, including the scope of buildings to be covered by the new regulatory framework and duty holder responsibilities. The government has promised an initial consultation before the spring.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has identified four areas for change:

  • Creation of a stronger regulatory and accountability framework
  • Clearer standards and guidance to help builders and product manufacturers better understand what is required to keep a building safe
  • A stronger voice for residents, including more effective routes for escalation and swift redress when things go wrong
  • Fostering a culture change in the industry by taking on incompetent firms through enforcement action and possibly legislation

Contributor - Tony Jones, principal structural engineer at The Concrete Centre