The Hackitt review was launched in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, which saw 71 lives lost and widespread structural safety issues revealed in a series of building audits.
In an interim report, the review found that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is “not fit for purpose”.
The key reasons for this include overly-complex regulations, a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities, inadequate assessment for key stakeholders, weak compliance and enforcement, a lack of avenues for residents to raise concerns, and a poor product quality assurance process.
The report said that these problems affect the whole lifecycle of a building, from construction to occupation – and is “connected both to the culture of the construction industry and the effectiveness of the regulators”.
“As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so,” said Dame Judith Hackitt, who is leading the independent review.
“The mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems and shortcomings to others must stop,” she continued.
Hackitt added: “Any attempt to modify details of the regulation without addressing the clear systemic failings would be akin to adding a paint job and decorations to a fundamentally non-road worthy vehicle.”
The independent review now moves to its second phase, including targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders. As an indication of what the final report will produce, six broad policy areas have been identified.
The review will firstly consider how to reform regulation and guidance. This will include ensuring regulation simplicity, making the rules more risk-based and proportionate, increasing accountability for responsible parties, and shifting the burden for updating and maintaining guidance away from the government towards the sector.
It will then look at clarifying the roles and responsibilities, such as by giving primary responsibility to those who commission, design and build the project, as well as attaching identifiable senior individuals to accountability instead of dispersing responsibility through the supply chain.
Levels of competence will then be examined by a proposed formal accreditation of those engaged in fire prevention aspects of the construction process.
Process and compliance reforms are also in the works, with the review proposing that each step of the construction process be recorded and reviewed. In addition to regular reviews of overall building integrity, more powerful sanctions will also be considered to aid enhanced enforcement efforts.
Furthermore, the review will recommend that a test and certification process be put in place to ensure the quality of installation work, and a “clear, quick, and effective” route created for residents to escalate their concerns.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “We welcome the interim findings of the Hackitt review, which make clear that there is much for the construction industry and its regulators to address post-Grenfell.
Berry continued: “We hope the review team maintains this momentum, so we can achieve a safer built environment, and one that always adheres to the highest of standards, as soon as possible.
“We look forward to working with the Government and our industry colleagues to address the areas of failure, so such an incident is never allowed to happen again.”
Hackitt added: “This is a call to action for an entire industry and those parts of government that oversee it.
“True and lasting change will require a universal shift in culture.”
Following the interim report, a summit will be called in early 2018 with key stakeholders to discuss taking the work outlined forward, with a final report expected in spring 2018.