Several new measures are underway to enhance building safety after the tragic Grenfell Tower accident. The government is contemplating mandatory second staircases besides sprinklers in homes, irrespective of the building height. This will improve safety and provide fire fighters with easier access to evacuations during an emergency.
Key issues behind the Grenfell tragedy
The main culprit of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy was the Aluminium Composite Panels used for cladding. The selection of the cladding material was to achieve better aesthetics, and then the materials choice was based on cost reduction, rather than improvement of safety. Unlike most high-rise buildings in the UK, Grenfell Tower had no sprinklers.
The emergency lighting was faulty and the fire extinguishers were out-of-date. The corridors of the building prevented free movement because of many rubbish and personal items. As a result, residents could not evacuate quickly. The residents of Grenfell raised concerns about these issues, for many years but to no avail. The building plan did not support full evacuation because of the adoption of the 'stay put' policy, something despite the fire rising up the facade at a rapid rate, was not changed on the night by the Fire Service.
Highlights of the Building Safety Act
The Building Safety Act established the Building Safety Regulator with powers to monitor and enforce compliance with the regulations. However, the Act includes measures for remediation for buildings over 11m, requiring developers to pay for the repairs, but the onus of paying for remediation, cascades down to leaseholders if the developers or freeholders cannot cover it.
Scrapping the Building Safety Manager's role will have serious repercussions impacting the overall safety of residents. Building Safety Managers were responsible for planning, managing, and monitoring the building's fire and structural safety. The move weakens the government's stand of having a person shoulder responsibility for ensuring the safety of high-rise buildings. Albeit consultation on the matter is ongoing.
Recent changes to improve building safety
The following measures are already in place to ensure the safety of residents:
The most recent proposals under consideration include mandating an additional staircase for buildings over 30 meters (though now already in place in London), and sprinklers in all care homes. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing Communities plans to hold consultations with all stakeholders in the construction industry and residents to explore more ways to establish building safety. It will pave the way for clearer and more effective regulations to ensure building safety across the UK.
Takeaways from the Grenfell tragedy
Unfortunately, the construction industry learned about the significance of building safety after the tragic Grenfell incident. They grossly violated safety norms while refurbishing Grenfell Tower as the cavity barriers to stop the fire from spreading were missing notwithstanding the wrong cladding was selected. The emphasis was more on aesthetics and cost-cutting than on the safety of residents. Michael Gove is a man on a mission. Fixing accountability for building safety is of prime importance, but there must be clear guidelines for improving construction standards. Ensuring the safety of residents of high-rise buildings is paramount in the Building Safety Act 2022.
Involving residents in the building safety regime is believed essential to ensure its success. It is in line with the recommendations of the Hackett review post-Grenfell fire report. Establishing seamless communication with residents of high-rise buildings is crucial to planning effective safety guidelines. The panel of residents of high-rise buildings will comprise 20 people living in high-rise blocks across various locations and demographics. Their real-life experience of living in high-rise buildings will influence the policies and procedures of the Building Safety Regime.
At Ringley, we have supported The Daily Telegraph campaign to expose the challenges rectification of years of neglect brings. Naturally, we are involved with reconciling differences of opinion between Residents, Developers, and the Fire Service. Whilst the conversation in Wales has moved on and the Welsh Government is paying out for Type 2 compartmentation surveys (walls, floors, ceilings and riser protection), from the communal hallways to apartments, and Type 4 compartmentation surveys where Type 2 surveys are damming and therefore compartmentation inside apartments (flat to flat, in wall openings, behind sockets and kitchens, around pipework and in risers), England is still not talking about compartmentation at all, save for updating fire door inspection requirements.
Fire doors and walls, ceiling, floor, riser, and services sealing of compartments are vital to protect life should a fire occur. At Ringley we have developed technology, to evidence inspection of thousands of fire doors at scale, remedial works reports for owners, specifications to tender, a pool of registered fire door installers, and are talking to clients about compartmentation issues.
If you do not feel your Managing Agent has a strategic map through your fire safety concerns contact our Kate Robinson LINK TO CONTACT US page
For help and advice with getting to grips with the challenges at your building, contact our Jon Curtis at the LINK TO CONTACT page
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