Hackitt Interim Report: Time to be heard and listened to

Dame Judith Hackitt

Earlier today Dame Judith Hackitt published her much anticipated interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. Like many, I was concerned that the report would be another opportunity where perhaps I had been heard, but not necessarily listened to. The need for resilience, clarity, competence, strong verification and an overall call for a cultural shift were my thoughts. So, has the report delivered?

Post-Grenfell it has been clearly understood that the construction industry needs to change. However, it was also realised that this change would be highly challenging for the construction sector. The report has come out clearly highlighting that the whole system of regulation is not fit for purpose, and this is what needs to change. At the same time it holds some difficult observations of the practices in the sector. In interviews today, it was surprising – and disturbing – to hear Dame Judith’s ‘shock’ at what she has found whilst reviewing the Regulations and Fire Safety.
On reading the report I could highlight elements that I feel do not go far enough or have been missed. However, on the whole, a call for cultural change, clarity of responsibility and regulation, underpinned by competence and adequate means of validation make a lot of sense to me.

However, there is no indication of locus change – the focus still seems to be on life safety rather than property protection. My argument is that if we protect property we are also gaining life safety, as buildings would be designed to get occupants out and the fire brigade in to control fires so buildings can be quickly reopened rather than demolished.

Also, whilst the report makes reference to high and complex buildings, it seems to miss other types of buildings such as industrial and commercial, retail, education and leisure. These buildings, if not designed correctly, are also susceptible to fire and need the appropriate level of protection.

Finally, there was no strong indication on the role of active fire protection, such as the use of sprinklers. However, I do realise this is an interim report and there is more to come.

Whilst I have concerns about some of the report, there is more hope because although I may not have been heard in the past, this is an opportunity to be heard now and importantly, I feel people are listening. There is a clear invitation to the wider construction and fire sector to step forward, be involved and help deliver a safer-built environment for the future.