Building design, standards and management need radical overhaul, says IET

Dr Joanna Cox, the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s head of policy, said in response to the Grenfell fire safety review…

The IET was greatly saddened by the tragedy at Grenfell, and is determined to support the inquiry in identifying all the causes and issues that must be addressed. Our belief is that knee-jerk responses do not save lives and can hide greater systemic and underlying issues. We welcome a new regulatory body for higher risk residential buildings.

The choice of cladding and foam material used to insulate high rise buildings is only part of what needs to be considered in maintaining safety. We need an effective system for building regulations and fire safety in place, that extends to the lifetime management of the building, not just the initial design.

The IET shares the view that the present system is far too complex and at the heart of this complexity are the Building Regulations and the way in which they are applied. Building designs and plans change during construction and the recommendation of duty holders for particular phases of the construction cycle is well received.

While the principle of the Building Regulations is to ensure that consistent standards are applied to the construction of buildings including its structure, fire safety, sound insulation, drainage, ventilation and electrical safety, the system as it has evolved, is intricate.

We welcome the creation of a single digital record of building information. There needs to be single, competent ownership by a suitably qualified individual of complex or high-risk buildings, that has primary responsibility and accountability. This will ensure that design, construction, maintenance or changes to the building or infrastructure are formally assessed and approved to the highest standards. This should be formally documented in a ‘Building Safety Case’ as adopted in other areas of the industry and stretch to the whole lifecycle of the building against the original design intention and basis of safety.

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