Grenfell Inquiry: How much can we expect of architects?

Russell Curtis

The public would be horrified if they understood the reality of design-and-build procurement, says Russell Curtis

Anyone listening to Studio E’s evidence at the Grenfell public inquiry last week will have done so with mixed emotions. It seems clear that the practice was ill-equipped to take on a complex project of this nature, and the apparent lack of understanding of the legislative framework doesn’t paint the capability of the profession in a good light.

However, what has been most surprising to commentators from outside the building industry is the lack of clarity over who was responsible for ensuring compliance. The head-spinning web of design accountability is complex enough to those of us who do this stuff every day; to those unacquainted with design-and-build procurement it seems extraordinary that there is no one individual who is tasked with ensuring the proposals meet legislative requirements.

It’s a lesson young architects learn early in their career: never mark others’ information as “approved”, and at all costs avoid labelling anything as “as-built”. To do so is to accept liability for its content, which is impossible to provide when design-and-build prevents the levels of scrutiny and quality control that such phrases would warrant.

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