As the industry awaits ministers’ decision, Andrew Mellor predicts it will be the biggest game changer in decades
I am surprised by the number of people in the industry who seem not to be aware of the Hackitt Review.
Hackitt’s recommendations will, if implemented by the government, change the way the industry designs, constructs and manages buildings. My surprise, therefore, relates to the fact that many industry colleagues simply do not know what is proposed and what its impacts will be for their business.
Hackitt was appointed by the government to undertake an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the tragedy at Grenfell. She found that the existing systems which are used to develop and operate buildings are not fit for purpose and require a fundamental overhaul.
One of Hackitt’s recommendations is for a new regulatory framework, which will apply to High Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) over 30 metres. So for those of you involved in sectors other than housing, or in lower-rise residential buildings, perhaps the new requirements will not affect you. Well this is not certain yet so please read on.
If we consider Hackitt’s recommendations, the government could apply the new regulatory framework to residential buildings of lower heights and to other building types, either initially or in the future. We are also likely to see clients voluntarily adopting some of the requirements as part of their procurement and project delivery processes even where the buildings are not “Hackitt buildings”.
It is expected to be the biggest game changer the industry has experienced in decades
If the new framework only applies to certain buildings then we are likely to have two processes for approvals during the development and occupation phases: one that follows the current format and one that follows the new regulatory process for HRRBs. The latter may include all team members having to undertake competency assessments, the introduction of new forms of construction procurement and oversight by a government regulator (ending the appointment of approved inspectors).
Furthermore, the new HRRB process is likely to include gateways beyond which construction work or occupation of the building cannot progress without incurring sanctions in the form of financial and possibly criminal penalties depending on the severity of the incident.
A digital record of the key building information will have to be produced before the HRRB can be occupied. In my recent experience of investigating facades on residential buildings, I have not been provided with, by the building owner, a complete and accurate set of record information for an existing HRRB. I await sight of an even near-complete set of documentation that should exist under current pre-Hackitt legislation.
This underscores the scale of the existing problem. The provision of correct and accurate record information at handover, to inform efficient building management and operational safety, will be a core requirement.
>> Also read: Analysis: Is Hackitt a turning point for the profession?
Hackitt advocates the use of BIM including for the occupied phase of the building. This may lead to the use of BIM level 2 becoming the norm with outputs from the model and datasets being in various different forms for use by the building owner and its team as well as for onward provision to the regulator and residents.
Residential clients, consultants and asset managers will have to consequently consider the digital skills of their employees, software needs and data storage capacity.
On our recent journey investigating the safety of buildings, and in particular facades, we have discovered that the majority of construction products are not readily identifiable and that performance of the products is not readily available or easy to understand.
Hackitt has also recognised these issues and has made recommendations for all products to be clearly identified and to have clear declarations of performance. Manufacturers will have to respond accordingly including, very likely, those from outside the UK.
It is not certain what the changes will be or when they will be introduced. We await the government’s formal response to the Hackitt Review, which we are told will include an industry consultation.
No matter what is finally implemented, through policy and legislation, it is expected to be the biggest game changer that the industry has experienced in decades. The industry and many of us who work in it will have no choice but to respond to the changes. But completed HRRBs will be much safer as a result.
I will write more on this complex topic and its impacts when the government’s response is published.
Andrew Mellor leads the development consultancy team at PRP. The practice has been advising MHCLG and conducting research around policy and building regulations.