Last month I wrote a technical review of the latest Fire Safety Bill, where I outlined the specific details of how the Fire Safety Bill legislation will be implemented and enforced.
Similarly, this month we will be focusing on the latest part of the attempts to create a reformed building safety regulatory system, specifically the Government’s Draft Building Safety Bill and what this will mean for the service and maintenance of buildings.
On the 2nd April, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced ambitious steps, initiated by the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, to further reform the building safety system, with the aim of ensuring that residents are safe in their homes.
Firstly, MHCLG have published their response to the Building a Safer Future Consultation which sets out plans to reform building safety. This includes creating a new, more stringent, national Building Safety Regulator, currently being devised by the Health and Safety Executive, who will be responsible for implementing, enforcing and overseeing safety in all multi-occupied residential buildings over 18m (or 6 storeys). Importantly, the Building Safety Bill will also provide for the ability to amend the scope in the future, if deemed justified.
In my last editorial piece for Housing Association I wrote about the government’s proposed changes to the Building Regulations as they relate to fire and broadly welcomed them (the main concern is that the very sensible measures proposed for high-rise residential buildings should also be applied to their shorter cousins).
But principles are only as good as the way that they are applied, and in terms of fire protection, and of smoke protection in particular, the devil is certainly in the detail. If these systems are to work properly they have to be designed properly, installed properly and maintained properly. Sadly, this does not always happen.
Coadjute, a platform for decentralised workflow and data sharing within the property industry, and several UK housing associations have completed a prototype of Quality Chain, a workflow application aimed at making the construction of housing simpler and safer.
The Coadjute platform uses R3’s Corda distributed ledger technology and designed to unify organisations involved in the development of housing projects from inception through to construction and occupation, Quality Chain captures and tracks a single version of key decisions, documentation and information. It creates the ‘golden thread’ of accountability and transparency identified as necessary by the Hackitt Report.
Compartmentation is a way to keep a fire contained in one place, preventing fire and smoke from spreading quickly and taking over the building. By creating these fire-resistant compartments, fire can be suppressed for around 30 minutes (time can vary depending on the building structure).
There are different elements to creating a fire safe compartment and there are many things that can reduce the effectiveness.
Dr. Barbara Lane's recent report raised numerous questions about the overall management of the smoke control installation at Grenfell.