GRENFELL FIRE A ‘DEFINING MOMENT’, SAYS BESA - The BESA
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GRENFELL FIRE A ‘DEFINING MOMENT’, SAYS BESA

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has called for the role and status of the Building Regulations to be reviewed in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

“While our thoughts remain primarily focussed on the suffering of the victims and the human cost of the fire, it is already clear that this terrible event will be seen as a defining moment for the whole built environment sector,” said technical director Tim Rook.

“With tall buildings set to be an increasingly large part of our cities in the future, it is vital that the highest standards of safety in design and construction are enforced to keep occupants safe.”

He added that the Association had always supported full compliance with, and the enforcement of, the Building Regulations. “Whilst it is clearly too early to talk about the causes, we will continue to support contractors with knowledge and best practice tools,” said Mr Rook.

He welcomed the criminal investigation announced by the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, but pointed out that measures recommended after the Lakanal House tragedy in 2009 that led to six deaths were still not in place.

“Evidence was presented to Ministers [after Lakanal House] that supported the use and retrofitting of fire sprinklers in many tall buildings. Further recommendations were made about the use of fire protection and fire compartmentalisation,” said Mr Rook.

“By the end of that review in 2013, it was agreed that Part B should be revised, but this has still not happened.”

As late as October last year, then housing minister Gavin Barwell told MPs the government had “publicly committed” to reviewing part B as a result of lessons learned from Lakanal House.

“Sadly, it appears that once again a major incident is needed before action is taken,” said Mr Rook.  “Repeated delays to the process of revising regulations and the history of incidents are symptomatic of a wider culture of under valuing and undermining the expertise of engineers and other professions.

“This should no longer be allowed to continue in the wake of Grenfell. Whatever cause is finally pinned down, the failings of the regulatory system and sector have been thrown into sharp relief by this horrifying fire.”

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