Grenfell disaster probe finds 'race to the bottom' in building safety practices

A review into the Grenfell Tower inferno has stopped short of recommending a ban on flammable cladding because it will "not address the root causes" of the problems in building regulations.

Dame Judith Hackitt found that indifference and ignorance had led a "race to the bottom" in building safety practices with cost prioritised over safety.

Setting out a series of proposals to make high-rise flats safer to live in in the wake of the June 14 disaster, she said there was a "systemic problem" and recommended the creation of a new regulator.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (PA)
Dame Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (PA)

Some building firms use the ambiguity around the rules to "game the system", with the primary motivation to "do things as quickly and cheaply as possible" rather than focusing on quality, Dame Judith said.

She also found ignorance about the rules, a lack of clarity about who takes responsibility and inadequate oversight.

"The above issues have helped to create a cultural issue across the sector, which can be described as a 'race to the bottom' caused either through indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice," she said.

Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire that killed 71 people in the west London block and a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar set ups.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) called for a ban on flammable cladding, a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings.

But Dame Judith said prohibited certain practices would "not address the root causes" of the problems.

She added: "The debate continues to run about whether or not aluminium cladding is used for thermal insulation, weather-proofing or an an internal part of the fabric, fire safety and integrity of the building.

"This illustrates the siloed thinking that is part of the problem we must address."

  • An "outcomes-based approach" to the regulatory approach to be overseen by a new regulator.
  • Clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process, as well as during a building's occupation.
  • Residents to be consulted over decisions affecting the safety of their home.
  • A more rigorous and transparent product testing regime.
  • Industry to lead strengthening competence of those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.

The review recommended:
- An "outcomes-based approach" to the regulatory approach to be overseen by a new regulator.
- Clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process, as well as during a building's occupation.
- Residents to be consulted over decisions affecting the safety of their home.
- A more rigorous and transparent product testing regime.
- Industry to lead strengthening competence of those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.

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