Government announces ADB review

Government announces ADB review

SECRETARY OF State for Communities, James Brokenshire, revealed that the government has both ‘clarified’ building regulation fire safety guidance, and has launched a consultation on changes.

Mr Brokenshire and the government stated that that in addition to having ‘clarified’ building regulations fire safety guidance, it has launched a consultation and is ‘seeking views on the revisions’ after taking on recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review. In turn, Mr Brokenshire will conduct a ‘full-scale review’ of Approved Document B (ADB) of the Building Regulations, ‘commencing in the autumn’.

This technical review of ADB will, the government stated ‘assess, amongst other things, whether the underlying policy should be updated to reflect modern building practice, the latest understanding of fire risks and technical and scientific innovations’. In more detail, the government will consult on ‘clarified guidance’ with the ADB consultation, while a call for evidence will be published in autumn ‘seeking views on the technical issues contained within the document’.

Mr Brokenshire added in parliament that the revised guidance ‘will be easier to use and reduce the risk of misinterpretation by those carrying out and inspecting building work’, and that it is a ‘vital first step on the road to reform’, with the government ‘clear we will not hesitate to go further than the Hackitt recommendations where we deem it necessary’.

Inside Housing picked up in the revised guidance that it ‘drops a previous paragraph’ that permitted use of materials with Class B or Class 0 rankings to be used on the ‘external surface’ of tall buildings, with the news outlet pointing out that this is a section ‘many have blamed for the flammable cladding crisis’. It now instead says that materials used externally on high rises should meet Class A2 or better.

The review of ADB comes after ‘calls from a number of colleagues, experts and organisations that a wider review […] is necessary to ensure the guidance reflects innovations in the construction sector and the latest understanding of fire behaviour and protection’. Additional measures announced include the establishment of a residents’ panel to ‘ensure proposed safety improvements are grounded in the experience of those who live in high-rise buildings’.

In turn, Dame Judith will chair a ‘soon-to-be established’ industry safety steering group in order to ‘drive the culture change needed to improve safety and hold industry to account’. The government will also work alongside a ‘small group of organisations’ from industry to ‘pilot safety improvements in line with’ Dame Judith’s recommendations, ‘demonstrating early leadership on building safety reform’.

Finally, it will introduce a ‘mandatory requirement’ on private sector landlords to ensure electrical installations ‘are inspected every five years’ in their properties. Four developers – Wilmott Dixon, Keir, L&Q and Salix – have signed up to be ‘early adopters’ in terms of ‘trialling ways of working in line’ with Dame Judith’s recommendations.

Mr Brokenshire said: ‘There is nothing more important than ensuring people are safe in their own homes. That is why I am announcing a package of measures focused on improving building safety, having listened carefully to the concerns which have been raised. Dame Judith’s report sets out the right framework to improve safety but I will not hesitate to go further than the recommendations where I deem it necessary.

‘That is why I am going further than my original commitment to simply clarify the guidelines, by commencing an end-to-end technical review of the fire safety aspects of building regulations in the autumn.’

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) welcomed the consultation on ADB, with chair Roy Wilsher commenting: ‘I am pleased to see this consultation has been launched; particularly the full review on Building Regulations. While NFCC believes the Building Regulations and Approved Document B are clear, the full-scale review in the autumn should assist in providing further clarity as we move forward.

‘In addition, we will also be responding to the combustible cladding consultation and NFCC gave an in-depth response to the ‘desktop study’ consultation. We remain fully committed and engaged within the Expert Panel and the roundtables. We will continue to support all moves to make our buildings safer.’