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Hackitt review recommendations to be carried forward

While the rolling news networks spent the week before Christmas focusing on Brexit, an announcement from the Secretary of State for Housing slipped under the radar that could change England’s construction industry as we know it. In this, James Brokenshire confirmed the Government is going to carry forward all recommendations of the Hackitt Review.

It’s a short sentence that needs a fair bit of unwrapping…

This was an independent report commissioned by the Government following the Grenfell fire. Dame Judith Hackitt’s role was to review building regulations, processes and responsibilities. Its release hit the headlines with phrases such as ‘not fit for purpose’, ‘inadequate regulatory oversight’ and ‘radical rethink’ to describe the current industry.

Hackitt proposed 53 recommendations and it was then the Government’s choice whether to ignore these conclusions, or act on them. They have chosen the latter for all suggestions. A few of these have already been acted on, but most of the hows and whens will be discussed in more detail over the coming months.

The report covers all aspects of the industry from design and planning through to maintenance and tenants. Some of the bigger suggestions include:

An overall review of the Approved Documents

There is a plan to move away from how we currently treat Approved Documents (as individual regulations with specific consultants). A new, holistic set of building regulations could bring all requirements together in a single document.

This could be created by producing an over-arching directory of the various requirements, or could involve rewriting our current building regulations from scratch into a single book.

The Government has committed to updating Parts F, L and M (ventilation, conservation of fuel and accessibility) this year, before tackling this much bigger project.

Better testing of building materials safety

Six of the recommendations focused on having better testing regimes to ensure building materials are safe and appropriate for use. The Government was quickest to act in this area by banning the use of certain cladding materials on buildings, and helping to remove these materials from existing buildings. Part B of the building regulations (fire safety) has already been modified to reflect this.

Regulations that focus on high-rise

Another recommendation is to put more attention towards the safety and quality of high-rise flats. It is likely that additional rules and regulations are going to be introduced that only kick in when a building goes above ten storeys, but how many extra rules and how wide-reaching remains to be seen.

The introduction of ‘dutyholders’

The term ‘dutyholder’ recurs numerous times in the Review and could have massive implications if this becomes a requirement for blocks of flats. A dutyholder would take on the responsibility for the safety of the building and residents. The report recommends a dutyholder should be an owner of the building, should keep a digital record of all construction work, meter readings, safety inspections and incidents. They should meet with residents and authorities to ensure there are no safety issues with the building. This role wouldn’t just apply to new buildings, but would also be brought in when existing high-rises undergo renovation work.

Review of self-certification and competent person schemes

Self-certification schemes and competent person schemes are going to be reviewed to make sure they are fit for purpose. The Review says it should be possible for a client to choose their own regulator, and approved inspectors should be completely independent from the building owners. If this suggestion is brought in to play it’s likely the role of private inspection companies (such as LABC) would need to change so they can operate under the control of a local authority.

 

With the Government’s commitment to looking into the feasibility of implementing each of these recommendations, it shows there is a desire to see a radical shake-up of how the construction industry works internally, how it communicates to the public and the relevant authorities and how it deals with more defined responsibilities.

The Ministry for Housing now has a long list of items to consider – many of which could have a large impact on building contractors, inspectors and landlord agencies. Work is already underway on some of the more urgent recommendations, with the majority of the Review scheduled for detailed discussions and consultations during 2019.

We’ll add follow-up articles in the future where any changes are announced that impact the Energist world.

The Government’s response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review

Update: Hackitt review and Government response

The Government has published a response to the recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, following the Grenfell Tower fire. Hackitt’s review, published in May 2018, was commissioned by the Government to review construction industry practices and uncover what went wrong. After a year’s worth of research, she published her findings, which included 51 recommendations for the Government to take forward.

The latest document published by the Government outlines the next steps that will be taken to address and respond to Hackitt’s individual recommendations and an update on what has happened since publication of the review.

Hackitt has recommended a complete rewrite of Building Regulations

The Government response states that an announcement will be made in the autumn about the future shape of Building Regulations. Tweaks have already been made to Part B, which deals with fire safety, and this will be the priority to rewrite ready to release properly next year. A consultation on an updated Part L is set to be released this winter, but there is no word yet whether all Approved Documents are going to be ripped up and started again from scratch.

Focus on Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs)

In line with Hackitt’s recommendations, the new Building Regulations (especially Part B) are expected to include additional, more stringent requirements for Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) – any building larger than 10 storeys. The Government wants to take some of Hackitt’s recommendations for HRRBs and apply this across all developments.

Dutyholders will take responsibility for almost everything

After the Grenfell Tower fire, it was clear there was no easy way of tracing accountability for what went wrong. In her review, Hackitt recommended every HRRB should have a dutyholder and it would be their responsibility to ensure the building, and its residents, are safe. The Government has started to use the term dutyholder but there is currently no definition. However, the Government are not keen on the idea of setting out legal requirements for dutyholders as there are already laws in place that building owners should comply with.

Establish the Joint Competent Authority

Hackitt recommended the creation of a Joint Competent Authority (JCA), which will merge the LABC (Building Control) with the local fire authority and the Health and Safety Executive. This means more visits on building sites and more scrutiny on how things are being built. It has been confirmed that work is underway to create the JCA for high-rise developments.

What hasn’t been announced yet?

The Government was very quick to accept the Hackitt review and confirmed they will take all recommendations into consideration, which is already evident from the responses made in this latest update. Some of the other recommendations made in the review that are still being considered include:

  • Ensuring final sign off for buildings is given by somebody who is completely independent from the development.
  • Relax some of the targets in Building Regulations and let the industry lead the way.

 

We will continue to publish updates as new information is released, including any news on the Part L consultation, set for release this winter.

 

Will new fire safety guidance impact your site’s energy performance?

In recent months, fire safety has come under the spotlight in our homes. With retrospective testing showing worrying results, especially for high-rise developments, we’ve been receiving lots of queries from clients who are changing their wall specification and would like to know what impact this has on energy efficiency. Generally, this change in specification has been to remove PU foam insulants, replacing them with mineral wool batts or blown fibre.

The first point to say on this matter is that Approved Document Part B (Fire safety) is not our area of expertise, so we strongly recommend you consult with a suitable professional about the options for modifying the details of your development before you come to us.

It’s also worth noting that fire safety regulations and energy efficiency regulations are not directly linked together. However, changes you make to satisfy Part B will indirectly change a building’s fabric heat loss, which will have a knock-on effect to your Part L results, and possibly your planning commitments as well.

Changing from one type of wall insulation to another can affect SAP, SBEM, BREEAM, CSH, energy strategies, carbon offset payments, overheating analysis and thermal bridging analysis.

With so much focus on the fire safety of our buildings – old and new – we’ve put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Why would a wall modification have so many impacts?

Let’s start with the U-Value.

This is the unit of measurement to show how thermally efficient a wall is. If, for example, you were to remove 50mm rigid insulation board, and install 100mm mineral wool instead, this will change the U-Value. If this value is made worse, the SAP and SBEM results will also be made worse.

If you were only just meeting the target before, this change could cause the building emission rate to increase, and your site may no longer comply with Building Regulations. This means you would need to make improvements elsewhere to compensate.

Similarly, if you have commissioned thermal bridging PSI-values based on a wall with rigid insulation, and then change this to mineral wool, those calculations are no longer valid and will need to be recalculated. Again, this adjustment will change the expected emission rates of your site.

If you have a planning requirement to show a reduction in energy use, this too will need checking. You may need to improve your specification elsewhere, or increase onsite renewables.

London sites with carbon offset payment requirements will also need to be recalculated. Higher wall U-Values are likely to lead to higher carbon offset payments to meet the zero carbon target.

There are sections in CSH and BREEAM assessments which are directly connected to the SAP and SBEM scores, so you could see a change in results here.

Summer overheating analysis will also change because different types of insulation have varying thermal conductivities, which are also affected by air infiltration in different ways. Changing materials and using different cavity thicknesses will impact the risk of overheating on your development.

So what is the best approach to this?

As shown above, there are a lot of knock-on implications to changing a wall specification, so you need to know how this might affect you.

If you or your fire consultants insist that insulation changes are needed, the best approach is to decide the best course of action and let us know what needs to be changed. The closer you can keep to the original U-Value, the less impact you will see – if you can improve on the original U-Value, all the better.

We’re not going to leave you in the dark and are on hand to check through each one of our services. We will ensure that your building continues to meet energy efficiency targets as well as being in line with the latest recommendations of your fire safety specialists.

Why would my wall U-Value change?

If we take a typical brick and block cavity wall, and include 75mm rigid insulation in a 125mm cavity, you could expect the U-Value to be around 0.22.

Changing the rigid insulation to a mineral wool would increase the U-Value to 0.31. This is because wool based insulants aren’t as thermally efficient as PU foam products. To offset this, you would need more insulation to improve the U-Value. In this case, fully filling the cavity (125mm) would give you a U-Value of 0.23 which is much closer to the original specification.

But remember this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Sites in more exposed areas may not be allowed to take the fully filled approach, so you may need to consider a wider cavity as an alternative approach.

What if the sustainability targets no longer hit the mark?

Our Technical Team are on hand to check how much of an impact any changes will make to your overall calculation. If we discover any issues with compliance, in terms of planning or building regulation requirements, we’ll work on alternative options for you to consider. Therefore, you can still meet your sustainable targets while keeping on the right side of new fire safety recommendations.