I recently met and exchanged letters with Dame Judith Hackitt chair of the Industry Safety Steering Group. We discussed how our two organisations could work more closely together.
The Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017 was the worst fire in a residential building since the Second World War. The tragic and avoidable loss of 72 lives has resulted in action to improve safety in all high rise residential buildings, as well as schools and hospitals. It has also led the construction and built environment sector involved in the design, delivery and operation of buildings, to reflect on its existing practices, and to seek to improve the system of building safety, reform working practices and to clarify roles and responsibilities to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.
The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, identified a systemic failure within the UK in relation to its approach to ensuring building safety. It recommended both radical reform of the Building Regulations, and a fundamental change in the culture of the construction and built environment sector with regard to building safety, and to embed this at the heart of its operation.
Achieving this will involve a significant effort by clients, contractors, product manufacturers, operators, maintainers, professional advisors and regulators, as the safety of buildings depends on the actions of many different people. A systems approach is required, in relation to: the design and construction of built assets; the regulation and inspection of buildings; the competence of those who work on them; clear lines of accountability for managing risks and ensuring building safety at every phase of the life cycle of a building; product safety, testing and traceability; and the development and maintenance of accurate information about buildings. The construction and built environment sectors must be willing to adopt and embed new working practices, and to change the culture of the industry, to ensure that those with the relevant professional expertise are both responsible and accountable for delivering and managing buildings to ensure their safety.
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is committed to driving the adoption of this new approach through its own work, and to working with other bodies, associations, institutions and companies within the construction and built environment sector to drive the necessary changes in the behaviour and culture of the industry. It will also ensure that the commitments included in the Construction Sector Deal will help to deliver better buildings that are, and feel, safe for people to live in. For example through:-
- Outcome-based, transparent and efficient procurement strategies are central to the CLC work on procuring for value, which aims to ensure that public and private sector clients adopt a new approach to commissioning built assets. This supports a risk-based approach with a focus on safety and sustainability over the life of the asset, and will help to change the business model of the sector.
- A £420m commitment to invest in new digital and manufacturing technologies. This will enable a robust ‘golden thread of information’ to be passed to future owners and used through the lifecycle of built assets via the creation of comprehensive data about the design, safety features and materials used in all built assets. It will also ensure these assets are produced to consistently high standards of performance and safety offsite.
- The CLC work on skills will create a comprehensive new framework to support firms to invest in training and retraining their workforce, and to ensure that they are equipped to use new technologies and techniques to deliver better, safer buildings.
The CLC also fully supports the work of the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) and the Industry Response Group, and is committed to working closely with both. The ISSG and IRG have played key roles in ensuring the industry can work together on issues such as product safety and testing and to develop a new approach to competence. The CLC will work to ensure that, where possible, the outputs of the ISSG and IRG are taken forward within the relevant CLC workstreams, and that the wider work of the CLC and ISSG is complementary.
There is a clear and urgent need for the construction and built environment sector and its clients to adopt a new approach to building safety, and to embed this at the heart of the sector. The CLC is committed to supporting this, and to maintaining a focus on delivering safer buildings through the Construction Sector Deal. We will continue to work with businesses, trade associations, professional institutions the Government and the wider public sector to deliver these essential changes.