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Paul Groves looks at the likely fallout from the report into the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

One of the stand out remarks from Dame Judith Hackitt when she unveiled her initial report into the way forward for the industry following the Grenfell Tower fire was her call for a “culture change”.

It struck a chord for many as it highlighted one of the major issues those within the industry had already identified.

It also resonated as any culture change is fraught with challenges and difficulties and so creating a new outlook across an entire industry, effectively reversing a trend that had become entrenched over a couple of decades at least, could be viewed as an insurmountable task.

The report confirmed radical change was needed for construction products

Paul Groves Paul Groves Editor of Specification magazine

Willingness to change culture

A major concern was how the Government would respond to the Hackitt Review as that would set an important tone for the industry moving forward.

But by acknowledging many of the main recommendations of the Hackitt Review the Government showed a willingness to help drive the culture change Dame Judith highlighted.

Of course, there are still critics and understandably so given the scale of the challenges and the pace of changes. However, in recent month we have seen some hugely significant developments.

These changes are happening alongside the on-going Inquiry into Grenfell Tower, with every indication that the evidence we are hearing could help shape further changes and quicken the pace of this culture change.

A landmark moment

For example, the new proposed Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) is regarded by many as a landmark moment for the industry.

The Code has been developed by the Construction Product Association’s Marketing Integrity Group (MIG), which was tasked with responding to the issues raised in Dame Judith’s report ‘Building A Safer Future’, and the credibility challenge facing our industry following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The report confirmed radical change was needed for construction products, particularly in the areas of testing, information and marketing.

The Code, made up of 11 clauses, aims to set the benchmark for how product information is presented and marketed by manufacturers.

Regaining public trust

CPA Chief Executive Peter Caplehorn comments: “The importance of this new Code and consultation process will be obvious to all those working in the built environment post-Grenfell. It is our responsibility as an industry to regain public trust and credibility in what we do, and to demonstrate that technical competence can be trusted.

“I believe the Code represents both a determined attempt on behalf of manufacturers to correct disingenuous marketing practices and a proactive and collaborative effort to address the issues highlighted in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Report.

“The first industry consultation in 2019 was key in establishing the way forward. We are now encouraging the industry to have their say once more before the Code is launched. We are reaching out to every organisation across the construction supply chain, whether that be manufacturers, specifiers, suppliers, distributors, contractors or installers. I hope businesses and individuals will embrace the opportunity to be involved, and recognise the urgency of change that is needed for our industry to ensure safe buildings.”

A damaged reputation

MIG Chair Adam Turk acknowledged that following Grenfell, the industry’s reputation has been damaged.

“This Code is an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to setting a level playing field for all construction product manufacturers to ensure that information they provide passes the five acid tests,” he continued.

“In particular, that users of our products can once again rely upon the information given to them, to build the great buildings and infrastructure in which we live, work and play.”

New Building Safety Regulations

Another significant moment was the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announcing the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Buildings to establish and lead the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

Peter Baker was previously the HSE’s current Director of Building Safety and Construction. The government asked HSE to establish a new building safety regulator in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster and following recommendations in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt.

In his role as the Chief Inspector of Buildings, Peter Baker will head up the Building Safety Regulator to deliver the new regime for high-risk buildings, oversee work to increase competence of all professionals working on buildings and ensure effective oversight of the entire building safety environment.

Peter will also be the first head of the building control profession, and lead the work to provide independent, expert advice to industry, government, landlords and residents on building safety.

Working together

His appointment was welcomed by Dame Judith and Peter Baker said: “I look forward to working with government, industry, partner regulators and residents to shape and deliver a world-class risk-based regulatory system for the safety and standards of buildings that residents can have confidence in and that we can all be proud of.”

There is still much work to be done and many issues that still need to be addressed.

However, culture change is happening and can be seen in both the code and the HSE’s appointment, as well as the approach of many individual manufacturers in ensuring their products are independently tested, certified, meet regulations and are marketed in a way that ensure relevant technical data and information is more forthcoming.

You can download the Code for Construction Products Information and register to have your say.

The consultation will run until 31st March.

Paul Groves is editor of Specification magazine