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Grenfell Construction Industry Fallout


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Alot of items are coming in the construction press from the fallout from the Grenfell incident I will post (and reference correctly) articles that may interest anyone following up on the incident.  First is in this weeks building magazine a short article on the starting fallout from it.

"The man behind last years government-commissioned report into the construction industry has said that the Grenfell Tower fire should force the industry to change the way it works.  Mark Farmer said the tragedy, which is believed to have killed up to 80 people, should be viewed as a game-changer for the industry.  His comments came as the Metropolitan Police said the number of firms identified as being involved in the construction and refurbishment of the tower had rocketed to 336  from the 60 previously thought. The Met also said this week that it may consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges in the case.Farmer, the chief executive of consultant Cast told a British Property Federation event to mark the first anniversary of his Modernise or Die report: Nobody wants change to come through something like this, but it is highly likely that some of the broader analysis that will go on post-Grenfell around building regulation will look at systemic failings in our industry and will all link back at the need to modernise what we do.  Grenfell has accelerated the focus on workmanship, quality and processes. The building regulations review will set the bar higher and push it even more into controlled factory environments if we are to achieve higher quality. It adds to the momentum of working in a different way.Farmers report, which came out last October, made a series of damning assessments about how the industry is failing on issues such as innovation, productivity levels and a shortage of workers.He said the construction industry has made positive steps in the almost 12 months since his report but still warned it faces disaster if his recommendations are not fully met within the next decade.He added: We are seeing a momentum shift, with the industry recognising we have to change the way we deliver, but it hasn’t been very good at proving it can do that at scale in the past, in particular towards positive incentives, and [has] not been able to collectively reform because it is very fragmented.If this goes beyond a decade, it could be disastrous. The industry has to deliver the homes, hospitals, schools, offices, shopping centres and hotels needed.Farmer also threw his weight behind a reformed CITB  and said the industry needs such a body in order to make sure it can carry out the changes required. He said: Without it and the concept of a levy to centralise funding and innovation, our industry will really struggle.Farmers report last year said the industry was too fragmented and was dogged by low margins, financial fragility, adversarial relationships, poor investment in innovation, a bad public image and no coherent leadership."

BUILDING MAGAZINE 22.09.2017 NEWS finance p17/barometer p18 By Paul Withers
Issue no 38 2017 Volume CCLXXXIII  No 8989  ISSN 0007-3318 Building is published by UBM plc


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The question of whether a review of building regulations is needed has already been conceded by the government with the setting up of Hackitts review. This is despite the fact it has been resisting reviewing the building regulations fire safety guidance for some time  at least since the coroner of the inquest into the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark found it was a most difficult document to use. She recommended it be reviewed to ensure it provides clear guidance, and is expressed in words and adopts a format which are intelligible to the wide range of people and bodies engaged in construction. After the Lakanal inquest, Eric Pickles, then-secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) promised a review but nothing happened. Former chief fire officer Ronnie King, treasurer of the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) and honorary secretary of an all-party parliamentary group for fire safety, said: Weve been pressing for a review of building regulations for five years. Its so frustrating to have to now be in a position of saying we told you so.The part of the building regulations that covers fire safety in buildings is Part B, with the key guidance being the two-part Approved Document B, last comprehensively reviewed in 2006. Critics highlight numerous problems with the document, most notably, in the light of Grenfell, related to the section addressing the construction of external walls. Here, the guidance says any insulation product, filler material etc [] should be of limited combustibility. This has caused confusion for two reasons: first, the definition of limited combustibility (contained in a separate appendix) appears to have been misinterpreted in some instances; and secondly, the reference to filler material has not until now been understood by the industry to refer to either the core material within cladding panels, or cladding at all, according to Dave Metcalfe, director of the Centre for Window and Cladding technology (CWCT) at the University of Bath. The guidance doesnt appear to say that cladding needs to be of limited combustibility  just insulation and filler material, says Metcalfe. There are issues with both the clarity and the content of the approved document. There is widespread concern that building regulations have not kept up with the use of cladding and insulation in the industry given increasingly energy efficiency stipulations. Following a devastating fire in 2015 in a new-build development in Canterbury, then-local MP Sir Julian Brazier said: My concern is that at a time when building regulations are more prescriptive than ever on issues like energy saving, the basic requirement to make the building resilient to fire appears to have been lost sight of. Indeed, research submitted to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, reported last week by The Times, suggested the insulation and cladding on the block contained as much fuel for the fire as 32,000 litres of petrol. Other issues raised with the existing regulations include the overall approach to external fire threat, as well as guidance around means of escape and installation of sprinkler systems. The FSFs King is one of a number of voices now calling for a predetermined timetable of updates to Part B in order for building regulations keep up with modern building practice, as happens in Australia. The whole thing needs updating, he says. Lots of things have moved on since 2006. In Australia they look at it every two years  it has to be more often. Likewise, Jim Glockling, technical director of the Fire Protection Association, says the lack of scheduled reviews is simply unacceptable. There has to be a guaranteed timescale for change. We cant leave it to DCLG to do.Despite the confusing wording and omissions in Approved Document B, most experts agree the refurbishment of Grenfell was in clear breach of building regulations. While the Reynobond ACM cladding panels, which contained a combustible polyethylene core, could be argued to not be covered by the regulations, the approved document is clear that for buildings of more than 18m in height,  insulation should be of limited combustibility. The insulation used was Celotex RS5000, a flammable polyisocyanurate or PIR insulation, which was only approved for buildings taller than 18m if accompanied by non-combustible cladding. The CWCTs Metcalfe says: The fact it has combustible insulation means it didnt meet building regs. However, all the companies involved maintain necessary building controls approvals were received, while the large-scale tests conducted by the DCLG since Grenfell show that 266 tall buildings suffer similar problems, suggesting this is a systemic issue. Aside from the confusion over the interpretation of the approved documents, there are two specific concerns the inquiry will need to address to get to the bottom of it:IS THE DESKTOP ROUTE FOR BUILDING REGS COMPLIANCE SATISFACTORY?Guidance note 18 issued in June 2015 by the Building Control Alliance (BCA), a non-profit organisation representing the building control profession, states there are fourroutes to achieving building regulation approval for external wall systems on tall buildings. The first is to meet the approved documents stipulation that all materials should be of limited combustibility. The second is to put the whole system through a large-scale test such as that undertaken recently by DCLG (known as BS 8414), to see whether it performs acceptably as a whole, even if it contains individual components that do not meet the specification. The third is to take a holistic fire engineered approach. However, questions have been raised regarding the final option, which is to undertake a desktop review that attempts to model the performance of a system based on existing large-scale tests containing some elements. This study is then used as evidence to a building control inspector that the scheme can be signed off. While it is not known whether this was the route to securing approval for the Grenfell refurbishment, it is suspected this method is behind many of the 266 towers that were approved but are now seen as not meeting regulations. The BCA has defended its guidance, saying the desktop option must be supported by hard test data and based on fact and NOT purely opinion [BCAs emphasis]. The FPAs Glockling says: There are real questions about the legitimacy of desktop studies. As they extrapolate from existing data theyre getting further and further from the truth. Steve Cooper, fire engineering partner at Cundall, says it is unclear if those undertaking  desktop studies have the right experience. Some studies are truly, truly awful. Some tests are inadequate and shocking. I think route three has caused a problem.

IS BUILDING CONTROL WORKING?All significant construction work needs to get approval from building control inspectors, who should okay plans prior to construction and then inspect works when under way or completed to ensure correct installation. Traditionally the domain of local authorities, since the 1980s private sector licenced approved inspectors have also been able to compete to sign off construction work. It has been reported that the Grenfell job was undertaken by local authority inspectors, who checked the job 16 times before completion in 2016.While local authority building control has complained of limited resources to do its work following budget cuts, there are also concerns that the system of private sector-approved inspectors suffers from a commercial conflict of interest that makes it hard for them to refuse to sign off projects. The FPAs Glockling says: The fact that this cladding issue is endemic clearly raises the issue of effectiveness of building control. I can conceive the government may ultimately decide the building regulations dont need radical change  but it will be very difficult to stomach the idea that nothing about building control needs fixing. This error has been repeated time after time. Cundalls Cooper says: The quality of enforcement has reduced significantly on the back of approved inspectors. Everyone knows certain AIs will believe anything they are told without needing evidence. They dont see themselves as part of enforcement, they see themselves as advisers.
HOW WAS THE CLADDING ON THE GRENFELL REFURBISHMENT – AND OTHERS LIKE IT – APPROVED?July,  Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of EEF (formerly Engineering Employers Federation) was appointed by communities secretary Sajid Javid to carry out an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. She is to publish an interim report before the end of the year, with a final report due in spring 2018.n Remit: To ensure there is a sufficiently robust regulatory system and provide assurances existing buildings remain safe. It will include but not be limited to assessing the contents of Approved Document B. This will require Hackitt to map the current regulatory system, consider the existing competencies and obligations of key individuals in the system, assess the systems coherence in theory and in practice and make recommendations for change  with particular reference to tall buildings.nCall for evidence: Hackitt issued a call for evidence on the eve of the public inquiry, which posed 10 questions asking for evidence on the effectiveness of the regulations themselves, the roles and responsibilities of key players, their level of competency, the effectiveness of building control inspection and enforcement and the testing of materials.

One of the most controversial issues since the Grenfell fire has been the failure of the tenant management organisation and by extension the council to fit a sprinkler system during its refurbishment of the block, alongside the wider question of whether sprinklers should be retrofitted to social housing high rises more broadly. Freedom of Information requests published by the BBC on the eve of the public inquiry showed that just 2% of social housing towers have sprinklers, despite a raft of evidence that they save lives. Again, the findings of the Lakanal coroner rubs salt into the wound: Frances Kirkham recommended the government encourage social housing providers to retrofit them on high rises  but no such encouragement was forthcoming. Approved document B is clear that any new towers of more than 30 storeys should have sprinkler systems installed, but doesnt mandate retrofitting.Existing building regulations related to fire are based on the idea of compartmentalising fire within the rooms they start in, thereby giving the fire brigade time to get the fire under control and occupants time to escape. Hence, some experts say sprinklers are not necessary and can cause building managers to become complacent about other fire risk issues, and further, that they would not have prevented Grenfell because the fire spread on the outside of the building. However, supporters of sprinklers counter that the reason none of the other recent cases of high-rise fires spread via external cladding led to fatalities  such as last months Marina Torch tower in Dubai  was because the inside of buildings were protected with sprinklers. The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association has published researching claiming sprinklers are 99% effective in containing or extinguishing fires, and London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton has now added her voice to calls for a retrofitting programme.

Grenfell Tower was reliant on only one stairwell for residents to escape down, with some reports alleging this became smoke-filled and obstructed, adding to the loss of life. Building regulations do allow high rises to have only one escape route, albeit under strict criteria surrounding the use of fire doors and how far flat entrances can be from the stairwell. Cundalls Cooper says single stairwell towers, despite being barred in some other countries, should be sufficient if all the other fire prevention measures are functioning. It works because the stairwell is fully protected, distances are limited and smoke is ventilated. Problems come where fire doors arent up to spec, or not closed, or where compartmentalisation isnt up to scratch.

While the design of the Grenfell refurbishment was governed by building regulations, other health and safety regulations should also have come into play. These include Construction and Design Management rules (CDM), which stipulate the clients, principal architects and principal contractors responsibility for the health and safety of the construction project and the resultant building. It also makes them responsible for appointing consultants, advisers and subcontractors with the relevant skills. In addition, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 puts the onus on the client to undertake fire risk assessments. Keith Harvey, director of Gleeds Health and Safety, says these can then recommend additional safety measures beyond building regulations  such as installation of sprinklers  taking into account the condition of the building and its occupants. The body responsible for the maintenance of Grenfell tower, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, has not published the fire risk assessment conducted after the refurbishment. CDM regulations deal with the construction process and the requirements are quite onerous, says Harvey. Any deviation from the specified materials should have been recorded and justified.

BUILDING MAGAZINE 22.09.2017 p23 & 24
Issue no 38 2017 Volume CCLXXXIII  No 8989  ISSN 0007-3318 Building is published by UBM plc

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