BESA welcomes planned review of building regulations

Published:  01 August, 2017

The commissioning of an independent review of Building Regulations has been welcomed by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF), has been commissioned to lead the review as part of the government's continuing response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

BESA Chief Executive Paul McLaughlin said BESA had been flagging up weaknesses in the regulatory framework for many years and had long been a champion of tighter enforcement.

Reports suggest that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is planning to look again at how building components achieve compliance with the regulations; possible ambiguity in supporting guidance; and whether testing regimes are sufficiently rigorous and consistent.

Paul said: "It is hugely depressing that, once again, it requires a catastrophic incident to force changes that many in our industry have been urging for years."

He pointed out that, while the focus at Grenfell had fallen on the cladding, the failure of one building component was often symptomatic of wider weaknesses in the process.

"Inappropriate and unsafe specifications contribute to the 'performance gap' our industry has been flagging up to authorities for years," Paul continued. "For example, we have often argued that poor energy performance is a 'canary in the cage' that should alert those responsible to other failings in the design and operation of the building. If we are missing energy efficiency design targets then what else is wrong?"

A review of fire safety regulations (Building Regulations Part B) was recommended following the Lakanal House fire in 2009, but has still not taken place. The DCLG is now expected to focus on all parts of the regulations and consider how weak enforcement is exploited to cut project costs. However, no timetable has yet been announced for the review.

"Repeated delays to the revision of regulations and the history of incidents are symptomatic of a wider culture of neglect and under valuation of the expertise of building engineers," Paul said.

BESA said it is encouraged by the broader focus of this DCLG review, looking at current building regulations and fire safety with a particular focus on tall buildings, compliance and enforcement and international regulations.

Recent events have once again highlighted that existing building regulations are not fit for purpose, and calls have grown for an urgent review that is long overdue. Part B of Building Regulations, which include fire and safety, and Part L, which includes energy efficiency, represent one of the key systemic failures in the construction industry, and will now hopefully become a priority for reform.

The review will examine:

  • The regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety
  • Related compliance and enforcement issues
  • International regulation and experience in this area.

Dame Judith has said: "I am honoured to be asked by government to lead this important independent review. This review will look at building regulations and fire safety to see what changes can be made for the future to make these more effective. I am keen to engage widely with industry and the public to inform the recommendations from the review. I want the recommendations to lead to any necessary improvements in the system being made."

The BESA has already been in contact with Dame Judith's office to offer technical and industry expertise, signalling our readiness to work together towards updated building regulations that are safer, more efficient and fit for purpose.

BESA also believes that many of the approved documents, which provide the technical details needed to comply with the Building Regulations, encourage a culture of 'box ticking' and corner cutting because they leave too much room for interpretation.

Paul McLaughlin also called for DCLG to make sure the review included the opinions of experts from right across the construction sector, and particularly from building engineering, in order to produce a "well balanced and positive future course for regulation".

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