Consultation on residential building launched

The government has launched a consultation to look into the rules surrounding residential building safety and in particular, those to do with fire testing for cladding. The main purpose is to restrict or ban the use of “desktop” studies that assess fire performance.

The housing secretary Sajid Javid has said that the revisions come directly from the recommendations made last year by the Dame Judith Hackitt interim report on the Grenfell Tower Fire in which 71 people died. He points out that the government is asking if desktop studies are suitable for all construction products, wall systems or for any other purpose.

If desktop studies are found to be appropriate, the proposed changes will also include improvements to the transparency of assessments and will enable more scrutiny of the results. It also proposes that all assessments be carried out by properly accredited bodies with relevant expertise.

Desktop studies are those that are based on previous studies into fire performance. They are currently part of an established system of testing for construction products and are set out in building regulations for fire safety in and around buildings. The Hackitt review suggests that these should only be used when appropriate and with relevant testing evidence.

Javid says that the use of desktop studies could be banned altogether as part of a programme of strengthening buildings regulations guidance. He suggests that this demonstrates robust measures that the government is willing to take especially surrounding the installation of cladding.

The consultation is due to end on May 25th, 2018.