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Key Takeaways from the Hackitt Report: An Industry Leaders’ Perspective

With the consistent rise in population together with urbanization, development of real estate is a necessity, and hence the ingenious need for vertical expansion in the form of high-rise residential buildings. At present, there are over 270 existing high- rise buildings in the UK with the current development pipeline standing at around 500. However, these buildings come with their own risks. Despite various regulations, there has been a sharp increase in the number of fire incidents and loss of life. The Grenfell Fire, in particular, opened the eyes of many to the risks of high- rise residential buildings in London. Consequently, emerged the need for some tangible rules and regulations that would bind the whole process of construction, giving way to safer buildings. This, in turn, gave way to the very well-known Hackitt Report by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The Hackitt Report introduced a number of changes and recommended the creation of an entirely new regulatory framework. So, what is the take of the industry experts?

The entry of JCA

The Hackitt Report recommended the creation of a single authority to overview the whole construction process and bringing it under one purview. The Joint Competent Authority or the JCA will be one authority encompassing the Local Authority Building Standards, Health and Safety Executives, and other rescue authorities.

This move has been welcomed by many industry leaders as well. In the words of Róisín Ní Chatháin, Director — Architecture, BPTW, “Overall we see the proposals coming out of the Hackitt Review and the proposed new regulatory framework as a positive move for the construction industry. As an industry this is the time to re- evaluate current procurement methods and create awareness of what needs to change to see that we are designing and building with quality construction and life safety at the fore.”

The Dutyholders and a Sense of Accountability

The construction industry, to date, has been quite disjointed, especially when it comes to accountability. With so many individuals and rules involved, it is difficult to figure out the stage where things may have gone wrong, in case of an eventual accident. Thus, the Hackitt Report suggests a framework with a clearer sense of responsibility. This framework draws references from the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015.

As per the framework, the key people or the dutyholders will be the ones responsible for eliminating any lurking danger in the building which may result in any accident later. These dutyholders will also be required to create records tracking every step

of the construction process, and also for creating the Health and Safety Files which will be eventually handed over to the residents of the buildings.

“We support the introduction of the dutyholder roles with a shared responsibility to see that the quality of the building is the focus throughout the design, construction and occupation of the building,” adds Róisín Ní Chatháin.

The Hackitt report not only defines accountability, but also repercussions in case the dutyholders fail to adhere to the standards, by treating it as a criminal offence. Not only this, in case of major oversights, the prosecutions can be for as long as five to six years.

Paul Doman, Partner at calfordseaden commented:

“The Hackitt Report has led to a great deal of thought throughout the construction industry and is definitely changing how we manage projects.”

Paul continued, “However, for the recommendations of the report to work, the skill level on site has to meet the requirements of the designer and the product technical manuals of each construction element. Avoiding errors relies upon a high skills base both in the individual trade operatives and in those managing the site. The onus must be shared by the design team, the construction team and the individual trades throughout construction.”

Touching on the Gateway Points

Another fascinating point brought forth by the Hackitt Report was the recommendation of introducing three gateway points. These are basically the three approval stages on periodic levels, where the dutyholders will have to prove to the authorities that their processes are efficient and in sync with the relevant rules and regulations.

Róisín Ní Chatháin was supportive of the same as well. “The introduction of the gateways is a benefit which will allow us to engage with the appropriate regulators, consultants and specialists from the outset and at key stages. This is essential for the successful delivery of quality buildings,” she added.

Testing the Products

Last but not least, the Hackitt Report calls for product testing by third parties. Third parties will create these reports based on their findings indicating whether the products passed or failed.

This step has been met with mixed responses from the experts but most have been in support, owing to the increasing mishaps. Testing the building before handing it off finally is a good way to seal the deal on the entire project and heave a sigh of relief.

Craig Wells, Fire Containment Specialist at QuelFire added “The Hackitt Report calls for several changes that will be a great move forward for the industry and ensuring the better protection of people and property. The recommendation for an effective testing regime, product traceability, a digital record is an aspect that we are already actively promoting. Undoubtedly, the tighter inspection of installations is something that is needed and we will continue to facilitate these changes together with current bodies and the proposed Joint Competent Authority (JCA)”

The Hackitt Report is a welcome step towards better, safer residential environments in high-rise buildings.

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