Government consults on proposals to toughen rules on building safety

Latest News Fri, Apr 13, 2018 6:47 AM

Tough new rules designed to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings have been published for consultation by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid.

The consultation, which aim to improve building safety, will look at restricting or banning the use of ‘desktop studies’ as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems.

The revisions come directly as a result of the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her interim report from the review into building regulations and fire safety published last year. Government is also going further by asking whether ‘desktop studies’ should be used at all.

The consultation is seeking views on whether ‘desktop studies’ are appropriate for all construction products, wall systems (cladding) or for any other purpose.

If ‘desktop studies’ are deemed appropriate, the proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments, enabling proper scrutiny of results and ensuring that the studies can only be carried out by properly accredited bodies that have the relevant expertise.

These proposals are subject to a full consultation that will end on 25 May 2018.

Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid said: "We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen building regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of ‘desktop studies’ are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.

"This demonstrates the tough measures we are prepared to take to make sure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and people are safe in their homes."

Local Government Association Chairman, Lord Porter, said: “The LGA explained to the Government several months ago that Approved Document B needed revising in order to provide clarity for building owners seeking to replace flammable cladding, so we are pleased to see this consultation emerge.

“Currently, if no fire test data exists for a particular cladding system, a desktop study can be submitted. We have consistently said that desktop studies cannot substitute for real-world tests of cladding systems – including in our evidence to the Hackitt Review. We urge the Government to hold firm against industry pressure that seeks to allow their continued use.

“What happened at Grenfell Tower can never be allowed to happen again and no one should have to live in fear about their safety, be that in the buildings they live in, work in or visit.

“Councils have acted quickly to put in safety measures in their high-rise blocks to reassure residents. With a large number of high-rise buildings affected by fire safety test fails owned by private landlords, councils continue to work hard to support building owners in their area to deal with the issue and to try and confirm with the owners of thousands of private high-rise residential buildings to identify the cladding and insulation systems on those blocks.

“While councils will continue to get on with what they need to do and are ready to play a leading role in making sure a new system of building regulation works, significant funding concerns remain. The Government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.”

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