Building Regulations: The Grenfell Tower Fire and It’s Consequences
The Grenfell Tower fire has had far-reaching consequences. The fire occurred in the early hours on 14th June 2017 at the high-rise Grenfell Tower local authority flats in Kensington, London.
The building burned for several hours and 72 people were eventually confirmed to have lost their lives, with more than 70 others injured.
It was the deadliest structural fire in the United Kingdom for some 30 years and the worst residential fire since the Second World War. The fire is currently under public inquiry, with further investigations and coroner’s inquests.
The Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath raised concerns across a wide spectrum of social, economic, political and technical concerns. One of those concerns was about the adequacy of the Building Regulations. Particularly in relation to high rise buildings and situations where a local authority is both the building owner and the building control body.
The government has launched its “Building a Safer Future” policy, which is designed to implement the recommendations of the Hackitt review of Building Regulations and fire safety. The Hackitt review made detailed suggestions for change in the construction industry.
These included recommendations for action by the government, building control bodies, professionals, developers and the construction industry generally. It also commented that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings was not fit for purpose.
Ban on Combustable Materials
In response, the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1230) came into force on 21 December 2018. The Regulations ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings and apply to:
- All new residential buildings above 18 metres in height.
- New dormitories in boarding schools, student accommodation, registered care homes and hospitals above 18 metres.
The ban also applies where building work is a “material change of use” that brings an existing building within one of these categories.
Transitional provisions mean that the ban does not apply where a building notice or initial notice has been given to, or full plans deposited with, a local authority before 21 December 2018, but only if the building work has already started or starts within two months of that date.
The press release announcing the cladding ban also announces the government’s “full backing” for local authorities to enable them to carry out emergency work on affected private residential buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material.
This includes financial backing, although local authorities will be expected to recover the cost from building owners. This is not mentioned in the Regulations. Rather than signalling further legislative change, this may simply indicate support for local authorities in using their existing powers relating to unsafe buildings, including those afforded by the Building Act 1984.