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Response to Dame Judith Hackitts Final Report

Posted by wilkinsoncc on July 30, 2018 at 7:55 PM

Response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Final Report

Following the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Final Report, ‘Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’, the Government asked to hear views as to how these recommendations should be taken forwards.

We have today responded to the report and provide a summary of that response below.

Recommendation 1.1

We do not agree with this recommendation as we feel that the system should apply to all buildings, and a two-tier system will cause confusion. Whilst we note the scope of Dame Hackitt’s report was framed by Grenfell, but we do not agree that statistics show an increased risk with height. If we review past tragedies such as Summerland, Woolworths, Bradford & Kings Cross , none of these were High Rise buildings. Additionally, far more people die every year in low rise domestic buildings than in High Rise buildings – a fact previously confirmed by the National Fire statistics.

A 10 Storey limit could have other unintended consequences and encourage developers to demolish existing buildings over this height or abandon plans to build them in favour of 9 ¾ storey buildings to avoid the additional burden. This would fly completely in the face of the wishes of existing residents who want their buildings to be safe not to be demolished and rehomed.

If a definition of high risk is to be applied we would consider that it is probably better to link it to the possibility of multiple fatalities, therefore the application of increased burden could apply to any building with an excess of 60 or 220 persons in line with the limitations in ADB.

We would also advise against the term High Risk buildings as this has significant negative connotations in the minds of the public. Possibly the use of High Occupation or Increased Dependency may be better terms.

Recommendation 1.2

We support the setting up of the JCA, but would advise that the JCA should be a separate enforcement body and repository for notices and data rather than being a service provider.

Recommendation 1.3

We strongly agree with the provision of a new user manual.

Recommendation 1.4

We have no comment to make on this recommendation, other than to suggest that it is separate from the BCB service provision – thereby enabling concerns to be raised about BCB’s.

Recommendation 2.1 & 2.2

We agree that these should be clearly mandated to explain responsibilities and that CDM is a good basis for these.

Recommendation 2.3

We agree that these should be provided for all high-risk buildings. We would also like to see simpler versions provided for all building Projects

Recommendation 2.4

We believe that there should be a single system with tiered requirements for detail rather than multiple systems.

Recommendation 2.5

We agree that the LPA should be required to notify the JCA – however we believe this should apply to all building work covered by planning permission. The notification should confirm that a BCB has been appointed and is overseeing the scheme and that the BCB has/will consult with the fire service. Until a copy of that consultation is deposited with the LPA an unconditional planning approval cannot be given.

It should be remembered that internal works notifiable under Building Regs and CDM may be exempt from Planning Permission and this would make the first Gateway redundant on a scheme to say replace all the kitchens and fire doors in a block.

Recommendation 2.6

We absolutely agree that works should not commence prior to a full plans approval. This is probably the single most important of all the report’s recommendations in our opinion. However, the JCA should not be a service provider and instead the requirement should be that a BCB provides a copy of the full plans approval to the JCA, otherwise we would be concerned that the JCA would be overwhelmed.

We would like to see this extended to all projects and additionally that the JCA gets a copy of the F10 and construction phase risk assessments. This is because the construction phase can be the highest risk especially if occupants remain in place. We believe that this would also be useful on minor projects such as domestic extensions.

The CITB app has produced a simple way for small builders to comply with CDM and the https://www.buildingregs4plans.co.uk/index.php website could easily be adapted to enable builders to produce simple compliant plans and specifications, which would not cause undue burden.

Recommendation 2.7

We agree that buildings should not be occupied until a final certificate, O&M, demonstrable records and the FRA are in place. The JCA should have an obligation to enforce if this cannot be evidenced.

Recommendation 2.8

As above we consider that the Gateway points should apply to all building projects. There should be optional boxes for the situations where Planning, Building Regs & CDM apply different definitions, but the concept should be universal.

Recommendation 2.9

We agree that there should be a clearer change management process for all buildings. Any change to the previous approval should be considered by the BCB and notified to the JCA where significant.

Recommendation 2.10

As previously stated all works should be notified to the JCA. To suggest that only a JCA incorporating LABC should oversee the works would mean that something as simple as a resident rewiring a kitchen or installing a power-shower would require the involvement of the JCA. This is likely to result in either severe delay, additional cost or more likely both. If instead the CP had to provide a detailed plan showing any fire safety features, specifications of work, risk assessments and evidence of the completed works there is no reason in our opinion why self-certification could not continue.

Recommendation 2.11

We do not agree with this recommendation as previously explained. AI’s are already prevented from having a financial or design interest in a project. LABC do not have such limitations and are already marketing additional products such as SAP calculations which they submit to themselves for approval https://www.labc.co.uk/consultancy-services. Regardless of the outcome of the review we would ask that it is made clear that it is not acceptable for any BCB to submit documents to itself for review, even if that is produced within a group structure. It should also at the very least be recognised that LABC are conflicted by being employed by the owners of their own buildings and not independent in the way that’s being presented. Indeed, both Lakanal House and Grenfell exposed this clear conflict of interest. Therefore, we would urge that the JCA should be a separate national body, recruiting its own staff/experts to avoid any risk of conflict.

Recommendation 2.12

We make no comment on this recommendation

Recommendation 2.13

We strongly support this recommendation. We also feel that having the JCA independent of LABC would result in greater consistency as we would expect that organisations flouting Building Regulations would typically also be flouting CDM & Fire Safety and even planning approval.

Recommendation 2.14

We agree that the first work on an existing “high risk” building (Subject to how that is defined) should trigger a safety case review if that is not already in place.

However, we would also propose an alternate proposal that all building works should trigger consequential improvements whereby 10% of a projects value should be ring fenced to addressing any deficiencies in fire safety. This could easily be addressed by reviewing the existing FRA and money spent on upgrades. For example, a proposal to replace the windows in a block would trigger a requirement to spend at least 10% upgrading any existing non-compliant fire doors, or installing smoke detectors, or some similar upgrade. This concept already exists in AD L and would create a culture whereby all building work considers the safety case first.

Recommendations 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8,

We agree with these proposals in full (but note previous comments about the composition of the JCA)

Recommendations 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 , 4.4, 4.5, 4.6

We agree with these proposal’s but additionally feel that all buildings should display a summary A-F style FRA in the same way as an EPC is displayed. This is likely to drive owners to want to improve ratings. It could also be used to prevent the sale or rental of buildings falling below a minimum (Say E) rating.

Recommendations 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4

We agree with these proposals

Recommendation 6.1

We agree with the concept, but the emphasis should be reversed, and the Government must validate guidance produced by industry. The creation of the flawed BCA guidance note 16 on cladding shows how confusing industry generated guidance can be.

We would also see that this is part of the function of the JCA rather than “Government”. We strongly recommend the JCA provide FAQ’s and possibly live chat to help point BCB (or designers) to the correct interpretation.

We are aware that previous civil servants have deliberately acted to make it difficult to get advice, guidance and determinations with the consequence that there is inconsistency in interpretation and even competition on interpretation which does have the capacity to drive standards to the lowest level.

Recommendations 6.2, 6.3

We agree with these proposal’s and are working to produce an easy to use app and would be more than happy to demonstrate this further.

Recommendations 7.1, 7.2,7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 , 8.4

We agree with these recommendations but would go further. We believe all products should be capable of being scanned by smart phone with GPS recording to confirm the exact details, batch numbers, the installers signature/qualification, and the location the product is installed in the building. 

Recommendation 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 10.1

These recommendations are outside our scope of expertise and we make no comment

Resources Generally

In addition to the recommendations made above we have significant concerns about the current levels of resources and competencies of BCB. Despite claims from LABC that they have the resources it is our opinion that the system is already over stretched.

We are also concerned that it is assumed that AI’s will offer support to LA services. In most cases AI’s left employment by LA as they did not want to work in the public sector, we cannot see them returning to that sector. It is also likely that the nature of LA procurement will mean that SME would be unable to compete with larger organisations to provide this back up. Its likely that organisations such as Capita, Interserve etc will see this as an opportunity to add to their existing service provision to LA. This would result in the unintended consequence of outsourcing BCB functions and could risk another “Carillion” collapse.

Conclusion

Overall, we feel that the report is a significant move forward building on the 2009 Future of Building Control Implementation Plan, and BD2510  Scoping report on MOT tests for buildings.However, it is important that we do not wait another 10 years before actioning the recommendations.

Our prime concerns are the role of the JCA, the confusion a two-track system would create, and resources generally. We have set out alternate solutions on these issues and would be happy to discuss them further if the opportunity arises.

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