RIBA concerned cladding ban may be avoided

RIBA concerned cladding ban may be avoided

THE ROYAL Institute of British Architects (RIBA) stated that it is seeking a ‘total ban’ on the use of combustible cladding, but that it is worried the Hackitt review will ‘avoid’ this.

The Guardian reported on the view from RIBA, which stated that it was concerned that Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety ‘will stop short of proposing’ a ban on flammable cladding on high rise residential towers, post Grenfell. It was also reported to have stated its fears that ‘neither sprinkler systems nor extra escape staircases would be required, either’, and has written to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

Its letter raised ‘significant concerns that key changes … seem to be overlooked’, with chair of the RIBA expert group on fire safety Jane Duncan commenting: ‘We fear that the current set of proposals under consideration overlook simple but critical changes that would provide clarity for professionals and most importantly help protect the public. Sprinklers, a second means of escape and a ban on flammable cladding for high rise residential buildings are common sense recommendations and a basic requirement in other countries.’

Additionally, The Guardian noted that the combustible cladding ‘is being stripped from buildings across the country’, but that Dame Judith ‘has indicated that she would resist banning flammable cladding altogether’, when she sent a letter to the House of Commons communities select committee earlier this year.

She had stated that ‘there is currently a choice between using products of limited combustibility or undergoing a full system test ... for the future, my view is clear that the former is undoubtedly the low-risk option. Where the person undertaking the work chooses the latter option, not only must they ensure that the full system is tested but they must also ensure that potential risks are mitigated by ensuring the system is properly installed and maintained throughout its life cycle’.

In turn, she expressed her view that she would not propose a new system of building regulations that ‘tells people what to do’, but which ‘creates a culture where there is a clear focus on building and maintaining safety throughout the lifetime of buildings’. The Guardian pointed out that this approach ‘has led to fears in parts of the construction industry that the complexity which has led to so many problems’ with combustible cladding will ‘remain’.

This would also mean residents ‘will still have to rely on fire engineers and testing specialists’ to ‘know if they are safe’, and RIBA added that Dame Judith ‘appears comfortable’ with limited combustibility cladding, but thinks it ‘would be simpler to ban cladding of any type of combustibility altogether’.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated that the Hackitt review ‘is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to prejudge and comment on the outcome of the report’, while a review spokesperson said ‘we expect her final report to be published this spring’.