The current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose, according to the interim report of an independent review being conducted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Landlords should also share primary responsibility for ensuring buildings they commission are safe in the event of fire, while accountability "must rest with clearly identifiable senior individuals and not be wholly dispersed through the supply chain".
The report also says landlords should not be waiting on direction from the review before acting on safety, particularly around their choice of materials to replace cladding.
The interim report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, was published today (18 December 2017).
It says that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose.
It also finds that an immediate culture change is required so that the construction industry takes greater responsibility for what it builds.
And it says residents need a clear, quick and effective route to ensure that the concerns they raise are listened to.
According to the report, current building regulations and guidance are ‘complex and unclear’ while there is ‘poor’ clarity surrounding roles and responsibilities in the construction and maintenance of buildings.
It says: "As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so."
Putting forward her personal view, Dame Judith says the tragedy at Grenfell Tower "should not have happened in our country in the 21st century".
She adds that she has been "shocked" by some of the practices she has heard about across the wider construction industry.
She adds: "I am convinced of the need for a new intelligent system of regulation and enforcement for high-rise and complex buildings which will encourage everyone to do the right thing and will hold to account those who try to cut corners."
Dame Judith called on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified in her interim report.
The report says landlords should not be waiting for direction from the review on their approach to remedial works.
It says: "We know that many owners and landlords are taking responsibility and initiating remedial work where required.
"But even now I am aware that some building owners and landlords are waiting for direction from this review on what materials should be used to replace cladding that has been identified
"I would urge them not to wait but to consider what materials have already been identified and tested as safe."
Her team will now undertake the second phase of the review and publish a final report in the spring of next year.
This will cover recommendations for improvements in six broad areas, which includes clarifying roles and responsibilities across the whole life cycle of buildings.
The report says: “Primary responsibility for ensuring that buildings are fit for purpose must rest with those who commission, design and build the project. Responsibility and accountability must rest with clearly identifiable senior individuals and not be wholly dispersed through the supply chain."
The other broad areas where change is required are:
As part of the second phase of work, a summit of government and building industry representatives will be convened in the New Year.
Dame Judith adds: “I have found that the regulatory system for safely designing, constructing and managing buildings is not fit for purpose. The current system is highly complex and there is confusion about the roles and responsibilities at each stage. In many areas there is a lack of competence and accreditation.
“While this does not mean all buildings are unsafe, it does mean we need to build a more effective system for the future. That is why I am today calling for the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to identify how to overcome these shortcomings together.”