The pace of reforms since Grenfell has been frustratingly slow, but real change is being delivered, writes Andrew Mellor

Andrew Mellor_PRP_crop

During the recent anniversary of Grenfell, we recalled waking up that morning to see the very tragic event unfolding and wondering how such a catastrophic fire could have occurred. Six years on, much progress has been made to make buildings safer, but there is still so much to do.

It will be 12 years or more after Grenfell, before building owners in England and Wales can confidently say that all of their tall residential buildings pose an acceptable level of risk with regard to fire spread. There is still a lot of work to do with regard to investigating fire safety risk in residential buildings and remediating any such defects where it is deemed to be required.

There are even cases of building facades which have been remediated since Grenfell, having to be re-remediated as the initial works are defective. How can this happen when everyone working on such projects should be aware of the commercial, societal and personal risks of not undertaking such works to a compliant and high level of quality?

A lack of oversight and competency is surely to blame in those instances. Such practices are frustratingly wasteful in relation to financial costs, environmental impact and resident wellbeing.

As time has passed over the last 6 years, government regulation and guidance relating to building safety has been reinforced. As a result, new residential multi-occupancy buildings and refurbished buildings have become safer when the works are designed and constructed in accordance with the new policy.

Organisations have reinforced their internal auditing and quality processes and have upskilled their employees in relation to building safety. I am however still surprised as to how may organisations are only just starting to think about how they need to respond to the requirements of the Building Safety Act – reactive rather than proactive, or so it seems.

The full response to the Grenfell tragedy will take at least a decade to introduce but it will be far reaching and of great benefit to society and our industry

The competency of clients in relation to building safety has been raised in a number of recent seminars and workshops that I have attended. There are or will be standards for the new Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles, as well as for architects, but no standard for client organisations.

This is a concern, given that it appears that some clients are not considering the need to change their established procurement processes to accommodate the Building Safety Act regime requirements, or are wanting to spend more money to get the desired end quality from a project.

Of course, cashflow is tight for all organisations, demonstrated by the increasing number of industry companies going into administration. But I am absolutely convinced that greater expenditure at the outset will provide a safer building and one with less overall defects, which will in turn last longer before repair and any form of refurbishment is needed.

As the secondary legislation emerges over the next month, in relation to the Building Safety Act regime in England, that greater understanding of the requirements will make for a frantic summer. As organisations battle to respond, they will also force a realisation that the required processes will cost more and that clients will have to adjust their procurement and internal project management processes.

There will be a huge amount of work and debate being undertaken across the industry as soon as the secondary legislation is released. Summer holidays may well be spent reading and reacting to the legislation.

For those operating in Wales, they will have to wait as the Welsh Government will be bringing into force its Building Safety regime in future years. The full response to the Grenfell tragedy will take at least a decade to introduce but it will be far reaching and of great benefit to society and our industry.