Vice-President's Page February 2018


OK, so where did 2017 go? I realise that by the time you read this it will probably be February but I did just want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year.
So, what does 2018 hold for our industry and CABE? Like Gavin Dunn, our new incoming Chief Executive who takes the helm in April, I too wanted to use my Vice-President’s page to say a huge well done and thank you to John Hooper for all that he’s done for CABE over the
last seven years of his CEO tenure.

John will be leaving CABE in a much stronger position than when he arrived, and he will be missed. As way of timely recognition, I can report that the Associations Congress, at their Annual Dinner and Awards event in Manchester on 15th December, awarded John the
Chief Executive of the Year for all of his achievements at ABE/CABE –well deserved, too. We will all get the opportunity to wish John well over the next few months before he retires; please make sure you do.

So, what else will we be considering in 2018?

Grenfell Tower

Since that tragic morning of 14 June we have all continued to read much around the truly horrific fire that occurred at Grenfell Tower.
As I reported in a previous Vice-President update page, further to the criminal investigation and public inquiry currently underway, an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt, has also commenced.
By now, I’m sure a great many of you will be aware that on 18th December Dame Judith published – Building a Safer Future, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Interim Report. Dame Judith, and her team, are to be commended for their work to date. The sheer level of engagement with all parts of the industry, the degree and depth of information gathering that had been undertaken and the consideration and development of such timely interim findings has been truly impressive.
The Interim Report makes difficult reading, not least because it highlights failures right across our industry. When you look at the enormity of the findings to date you may also be forgiven for thinking that this is not just a regulatory failing, nor is it just a fire safety matter, it would appear to go much wider than that.
The full Interim Report can be downloaded from here, and I strongly recommend you take the time to look at it: 
Please do take the time to study the full report. I would just highlight specifically Dame Judith’s ‘interim recommendations and challenges’ which for ease, I have set out below (paragraphs 1.96-1.97 of the report):

• The government should consider how the suite of Approved Documents could be structured and ordered to provide a more streamlined, holistic view while retaining the right level of relevant technical detail, with input from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. Given that reframing the suite of guidance may take some time, in the meantime I would ask the government to consider any presentational changes that will improve the clarity of Approved Document B as an interim measure.

• There is a need to be certain that those working on the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex and high-risk buildings are suitably qualified. The professional and accreditation bodies have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of establishing a robust, comprehensive and coherent system covering all disciplines for work on such buildings. If they are able to come together and develop a joined up system covering all levels of qualification in relevant disciplines, this will provide the framework for regulation to mandate the use of suitable, qualified professionals who can demonstrate that their skills are up to date.
This should cover as a minimum:

– engineers
– those installing and maintaining fire safety systems and other
   safety-critical systems
– fire engineers
– fire risk assessors
– fire safety enforcing officers; and
– building control inspectors.

I would ask these bodies to work together now to propose such a system as soon as practicable. I will launch this work at a summit in early 2018.
 Consultation with the fire and rescue services is required on plans for buildings that are covered by the Fire Safety Order, but does not work as intended. Consultation by building control bodies and by those commissioning or designing buildings should take place early in the process and fire and rescue service advice should be fully taken into account. The aim should be to secure their input and support at the earliest stage possible so that fire safety can be fully designed in. 
•  Building developers need to ensure that there is a formal review and handover process ahead of occupation of any part of a new high-rise residential building. While there are legitimate reasons to allow occupation in a phased way, the practice of allowing occupancy of buildings without proper review and handover presents barriers to the implementation of any remedial measures identified as part of the completion process.
 There is a need for building control bodies to do more to assure that fire safety information for a building is provided by the person completing the building work to the responsible person for the building in occupation. Given the importance of such information for ongoing maintenance and fire risk assessment, proof should be sought that it has been transferred. 
 It is currently the case under the Fire Safety Order that fire risk assessments for high-rise residential buildings must be carried out ‘regularly’. It is recommended that the responsible person ensures these are undertaken at least annually and when any significant alterations are made to the building. These risk assessments should be shared in an accessible way with the residents who live within that building and notified to the fire and rescue service. 
 The government should significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding and other systems to ensure that they are only used where appropriate and with sufficient, relevant test evidence. Those undertaking desktop studies must be able to demonstrate suitable competence. 
The industry should ensure that their use of desktop studies is responsible and in line with this aim.

Next phase of the review

Dame Judith is quite clear that going forward the review intends to focus on developing the above recommendations that will in turn lead to her final report later this year.
There is still much to be considered; however, I suggest what will ultimately follow could amount to the biggest and some of the most important changes to the way we go about designing, building and operating our buildings in our lifetime and CABE members will need to continue to lead these changes.

Finally, as I write this I’ve just read that Carillion has gone into liquidation, threatening thousands of jobs. My thoughts are with those affected, and I hope we can secure a sensible resolution to this difficult situation. However, it is occurrences such as this that go to show just how fragile even some of the biggest players in our industry can be.

Right, that’s all from me for now. I look forward to seeing you in the year ahead, we clearly have lots to do.