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11/04/2018

Consultation on new building safety rules

Words: Laura Edgar
Building safety consultation / iStock-509228272

Housing secretary Sajid Javid has published a consultation on proposals that aim to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings.

The consultation follows the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The interim report published in December 2017 states that current regulations and guidance are “too complex and unclear”, which can “lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings”.

Additionally, “the clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor” and even where “there are requirements for key activities to take place across design, construction and maintenance, it is not always clear who has responsibility for making it happen”.

The government said this consultation looks at restricting or banning the use of ‘desktop studies’ as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems. If such studies are deemed appropriate, the proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments and enabling proper scrutiny of results. Changes also include ensuring that only properly accredited bodies can carry out studies.

Javid said: “We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen building regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of ‘desktop studies’ are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.

“This demonstrates the tough measures we are prepared to take to make sure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and people are safe in their homes.”

Lord Porter, chairman at the LGA, said: “Currently, if no fire test data exists for a particular cladding system, a desktop study can be submitted. We have consistently said that desktop studies cannot substitute for real-world tests of cladding systems – including in our evidence to the Hackitt Review. We urge the government to hold firm against industry pressure that seeks to allow their continued use.”

Porter also said that while council will do what they need to do and are ready for a leading role in making a new building regulation system works, “significant” funding concerns remain.

“The government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.”

The consultation on Approved Document B, which closes on 25 May 2018, can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website.


Read more:

News report: Many failings behind Grenfell tragedy


Image credit | iStock

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