Grenfell Tower Fire: RIBA and Insurers Urge Wider Reforms
- Date: Friday 18th May 2018
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The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), have lined up to urge Dame Judith Hackitt to take a more ambitious stance on re-writing the rulebook on building safety and fire safety in her final post-Grenfell reform recommendations, due to be published later this month.
RIBA has stressed the need for a total ban on combustible materials in high-rise buildings; the need for at least two staircases in new residential blocks; retro-fitting sprinklers in high-rise blocks and requiring them in all new and converted residential buildings.
RIBA also called for an extension of client, contractor and designer duties under the CDM Regulations to specifically include responsibility for ongoing life safety and fire safety, and for this to be regulated by the HSE. The Institute argues that now is the time for the UK government to elevate its duty to safeguard the safety of its citizens and to look beyond the failed systems that it has relied upon historically to develop and interpret its Building Regulations and guidance, and bring in truly independent international expertise.
The ABI, whose members have been hiking premiums for contractors’ insurance on cladding and high-rise projects, submitted a dossier of evidence to the Hackitt Review on existing fire test regimes. The Association argues that the “burn tests” specified in British Standards (BS) and used by the Department of Communities and Local Government in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, fail to offer a realistic facsimile of what happens in a real fire. Peak temperatures could be up to 100 degrees Celsius lower in the BS tests than real life as these use timber as the fuel load, and do not include plastics which represent a 20% contribution to fires in typical buildings today. In addition, materials tested are in manufacturer condition, whereas in reality they will often be pierced by vents or ducts which can significantly impact on the rate of fire spread.