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Are we building a safer future with the Grenfell Review?

We welcome the Grenfell Review issued by Dame Judith Hackitt and its recommendation for a ‘wholescale change in culture on fire safety’ for high rise residential buildings.

We feel Hackitt’s decision not to ban combustible materials in construction shows a level of pragmatism.

In our opinion there should be a case-by-case analysis of each tower block, which should be judged on the merits of the individual building’s fire performance.

We would advocate the testing of individual systems specific to the project details and this would enable a library of robust details to be developed.

Clearly the industry needs to work together collaboratively to deliver safe buildings now and the future.

As architects, who have been involved in the recladding and refurbishment of tower blocks for many years, we have always adopted a collaborative approach to building construction including the involvement of fire safety consultants.

With the report going one stage further and recommending including residents voices especially through the lifecycle of the building

Hackitt’s report correctly highlights the positive impact CDM 2015 regulations have had on Health and Safety within the industry, bringing clarity with people having clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The application of these principles to building safety can only be a good thing.

As designers we have a responsibility to ensure that along with contractors, we eliminate, reduce and control foreseeable risk that may arise.

This can be partly achieved by the correct specification of materials and detailing and ensuring these are implemented on site.

However the team must also ensure that any value engineering does not result in the ‘race to the bottom’ described by Hackitt with fire safety being compromised for the sake of getting things done quickly and cheaply.

Hackitt’s proposed system for specifying and testing construction products will be an essential part of this process.

Does the report go far enough?

We are interested to see how the Government reacts and implements the recommendations.

Lee Podmore is a Director and Surveyor at BTP Architects.

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