BESA says government fire safety plans "must be ambitious"

7 August 2019

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) welcomed the government’s consultation but also called for a ‘series of tough new legislative measures’.

In early June, the Home Office launched a call for evidence relating to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO], which was set to run until 31 July. It stated that it was ‘seeking views’ on the FSO, with employers and business owners asked for perspectives, and added that the call has come as part of the changes being made since Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety was published in May 2018.

An analysis of responses will be published and will ‘inform the government’s next steps later this year’, and the government added that the call for evidence ‘complements’ its own consultation – Building a Safer Future – which ‘outlines how the government proposes to take forward meaningful legislative reform in the building safety regulatory system’.

ACR News reported on the BESA’s response to the consultation, which it had ‘welcomed’, but it also called for a ‘series of tough new legislative measures’. It was ‘crucial’ that the government ‘did not miss’ the opportunity to ‘embed a new culture and reshape the whole process for delivering both new build and refurbishment work’, while calling for an expansion of the new safety regime beyond buildings 18m in height ‘to tall types of buildings considered at high risk of fire’.

Other proposals made by the BESA include the ‘mandating’ of automatic fire suppression to ‘address the growing risk’ of more owners installing commercial kitchens and food retailers in buildings ‘that also contain residential accommodation’, with all the new measures needing to be ‘underpinned by a more robust focus on competence and compliance’.

BESA also noted that its members ‘played an active part’ in formulating its response, with many highlighting a need for complexity ‘to be taken out of the procurement process to reduce confusion and minimise areas of dispute in supply chains’. Members were keen to ensure that policy makers understood the ‘importance of the whole lifecycle of a building’, so that assessing contractor competence ‘working at all stages of the building’s life was a priority’.

Finally, BESA challenged the proposal that building information modelling should be the ‘preferred method’ for creating the golden thread of information, pointing to the fact that there were ‘other less costly and complex’ digital methods available.

David Frise, BESA chief executive, added to the response: ‘However, this has to be more than simply adhering to a new set of rules – it is a chance to be far more ambitious. This is a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the culture of our industry; starting with clients being forced to feel their responsibilities in line with Dame Judith’s recommendations.

‘Every party involved in the design, installation, operation or maintenance of a building needs to take responsibility for their input, from the design consultant to installation contractor. This should be the accepted culture within the industry – delivered without compulsion, without hesitation and with complete transparency.

‘Up to now, the discussion has been dominated by the design and construction professions. It is, therefore, welcome that the consultation included provision for the Hackitt recommendation that there be a “Golden Thread” of digitally based information spanning a building’s life. This ultimately drives accountability and a focus on safety at all stages, from the beginning of the process through the entire lifecycle of a building.’

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BESA says government fire safety plans