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Industry Update – An update from Dame Judith Hackitt

Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of Building Safety and Fire Regulations, in the wake of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, led to the government asking HSE to establish a new building safety regulator. In her latest contribution to our regular series of updates, Dame Judith offers her thoughts on recent developments…
Since the start of 2021, the level of building safety activity beyond the passage of regulation through Parliament, has picked up significantly.

We have learned from government that a new regulator is going to be set up for construction products, there is to be a review of product testing and more money is to be made available to fund remediation on those buildings which represent the highest risk.

There are also strong signs that industry is starting to move in the right direction with the launch of consultation documents from both the Construction Products Association and the British Board of Agreement and, in my view, most significantly, the serious work that is taking place to develop the Building a Safer Future Charter, under the leadership of Amanda Long at Considerate Constructors.

But the biggest announcement last week was the formal appointment of Peter Baker as Chief Inspector of Building Safety.

This marks a significant milestone in delivering the new regime which will ensure that people living in high rise buildings are safe and feel safe in their homes. I was delighted to hear of Peter’s appointment to fill these very big shoes!

The role is about driving culture change in an industry which has in the past overlooked its moral duty to care about the safety of consumers and it is also about rebuilding trust with those consumers – residents.

There will be many balances to be struck in this process:
• Supporting industry in how to prepare for Gateways and the safety case regime
• Setting new standards for what we expect of new build whilst maintaining a proportionate and affordable approach to what needs to be done to existing buildings to achieve an acceptable level of safety
• Shifting the dial to an outcomes-based system where industry owns and takes responsibility, moving away from the prescriptive approach of the past
• Demonstrating to residents that they are being listened to and their concerns addressed
• Building new relationships with a wide range of co-regulators at national and local level to ensure good understanding and consistency of approach so that we avoid the risk of developing a two-tier system
No-one expects these things to change overnight, there is a great deal to do, but the appointment of the new Chief Inspector sounds the bell loud and clear: “Change really is coming”!

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