The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has welcomed the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Interim Report but has highlighted the need to go much further, specifically in terms of making real and meaningful change to the core building regulations guidance covering fire safety, which is needed as a matter of great urgency.
Immediate Past President of RIBA and Chair of the RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, Jane Duncan says:
“I’m pleased that Dame Judith Hackitt recognises the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose and that there is a lack clarity of roles and responsibilities in the construction industry. The RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety strongly recommends that the final review should require a named person or organisation to hold prime responsibility for the oversight of fire safety in the design and construction of any building project. It is disappointing that the interim review has not called for an immediate prohibition on the use any combustible materials in the external wall construction of high-rise buildings. This means we continue with this grey-area in regards to fire-safety.”
The RIBA welcome that the report seeks:
- Better definition and allocation of roles and responsibilities within the building and fire regulatory system, with defined duty holders. The RIBA hopes that the final report will require a named person or organisation with prime responsibility for oversight of fire-safe design and construction on any building project
- Increased independent oversight of the quality of construction work
- Stronger compliance and enforcement of building control
- Raised levels of competence and accreditation of those involved in design, construction and maintenance of higher risk buildings
It is also good to see a recognition by Dame Judith of the importance of the ‘golden thread’ of original design intent, the integrity of which must be maintained in any building project or subsequent refurbishment – in order to avoid fragmentation of design responsibility with risks poorer quality outcomes.
However, it is disappointing that whilst the report recognises the complexity and lack of clarity in the current building regulations guidance, it shies away from introducing immediate and effective changes to the current fire safety guidance, Approved Document B. The RIBA would like to see:
- An immediate prohibition on the use any combustible materials in the external wall construction of high-rise buildings
- A greater role for sprinklers as an active life safety measure in residential buildings
- Requirements for at least two staircases, offering alternative means of escape in high-rise residential buildings