The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) welcomes the announcement made recently by the Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP on expansion of the Building Safety Fund. This included full funding for the removal of unsafe cladding for leaseholders in all residential buildings 18 metres and over (6 storeys) in England; and a finance scheme to provide reassurance for leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres (4 to 6 storeys).
The CLC recently submitted an industry wide response ahead the Chancellor’s Budget Statement on 3 March 2021. This focussed on a small number of key interventions including an increase in the funding for the Building Safety Fund to cover the remediation of all eligible buildings and other matters.
Government and industry must continue to work together to ensure the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire does not happen again.
The majority of this work is being led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) through their Building Safety Programme and is structured around four key areas: identification of unsafe buildings, making those buildings safe, identifying system problems, and fixing the system.
The construction industry must play its part too and there is already significant work underway.
The Construction Leadership Council Building Safety workstream aims to support CLC and industry engagement with the Grenfell Inquiry, Building Safety Programme, new regulatory bodies and wider work for the built environment. Key objectives include identifying the intersections between the core work of the CLC and Building Safety Programme, where appropriate enhancement and contribution to key building safety regime objectives and driving industry awareness and understanding – key is leadership and culture change both in the immediate (new and existing High Risk Residential Buildings buildings) and longer term for the entire industry.
Over the past two years the Competence Steering Group (CSG) has assembled a coalition of organisations from across the built environment and fire industries together with organisations representing building owners and managers. Their aim was to come up with a blueprint to improve competence for those working on higher-risk buildings, and drive a culture change right across the industry.
The group has produced 2 reports – Raising the Bar published in August 2019 and Setting the Bar published in October 2020. The work was initiated by the recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review Building a Safer Future. Since the publication of the ‘Setting the Bar’, the CSG and its 13 Working Groups have consulted widely and taken on board feedback as they have continued to develop sector frameworks. These frameworks will provide the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours needed to carry out specific roles, and deliver a more rigorous approach to the essential training and assessment that is required.
In addition, MHCLG has commissioned the National Standards Body, BSI, to develop the National Standards for the overarching competence framework and accompanying Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) standards for the three regulated roles of Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and Building Safety Manager.
Improved product safety is also a key part of building safety reforms. Work has been ongoing over the past few years to ensure that the products that go into buildings are safe and therefore buildings are safe. This work has been aligned with the recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s 2018 report Building a Safer Future and the draft building safety bill published by MHCLG in July 2020. This includes the industry development of a code for construction product information, led by the Construction Products Association’s Marketing Integrity Group. The aim of the code is to have a robust and consistent approach to how construction product information is communicated. The draft code proposes the principles of clear, accurate, up to date, accessible and unambiguous information through 11 clauses.
Throughout 2021, the Building Safety workstream will look to share and update the industry via the CLC website on key work and announcements. Most recent activity includes:
- The Government has announced a new national regulator for construction products operating within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). An independent review has also commissioned to examine weaknesses in previous testing regimes for construction products, and to recommend how abuse of the testing system can be prevented.
- Launch of the industry consultation on a proposed new code for construction product information.
- Recent article by Graham Watts, Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Council, a Member of the MHCLG Industry Response Group and Chair of its Competence Steering Group.
All in the industry must engage and play their part to improve.
Iain McIlwee FIS CEO added “It is clear that the industry is needs to pull out all of the stops to ensure that profound changes to culture and process happen, but for me the fund still falls short of attacking the problem head on. Cladding is but one issue, it is not addressing the wider aspects that were uncovered in Grenfell and previous disasters. It also concerns me that there is now talk of a levy on development, which could potentially impact funding for future works. For me we are still looking at systemic failure – the Building Safety Fund needs to be more ambitious and better targeted. The Pension Protection Fund offers a good parallel and has been effective in targeting and overcoming A more thinly spread levy, linked to e.g. Insurance Premium Tax that does not leave lease-holders with debilitating loans and further angst”.