Hackitt says “culture change” needed in industry to prevent another Grenfell

Announcing the publication of the interim report of the review into construction regulations and fire safety following the fire at Grenfell Tower, the head of the review said a “culture change” was needed in the building industry to prevent another such disaster.

Dame Judith Hackitt told Radio 4’s Today programme that construction professionals “needed to commit to making buildings safer,” in light of the report’s findings so far, rather than “simply doing things at least cost.” She also said the current system left ample opportunity for shortcuts to be taken on construction.

She told the BBC that the fire in June this year was a result of a combination of regulations not being fit for purpose, and failings on the part of professionals in the industry. She said that the regulations’ complexity meant that people found them “quite difficult to penetrate to truly understand what they need to do.”

Hackitt added there was “clearly an opportunity to make that much simpler, and guide people to the right answer, rather than present them with all their information.”

The review she is chairing is due to report in full in the spring. It will look at the effectiveness of current building and fire safety regulations and will also report on tests carried out on cladding in the aftermath of the fire. The wide-ranging review also covers roles and responsibilities, compliance and enforcement, as well as quality assurance provisions and products. She said the review’s two key priorities were to “develop a more robust regulatory system and to provide further assurance to residents that the buildings they live in are safe.”

In the interim review’s Foreword, Dame Hackitt commented:

“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.”

She added: “A systematic, controlled approach to construction, refurbishment and management of occupied buildings is not by any means universal. There is plenty of good practice but it is not difficult to see how those who are inclined to take shortcuts can do so. Change control and quality assurance are poor throughout.

“What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking. I have been shocked by some of the practices I have heard about and 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.”