The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt has called for a new regulatory framework in order to improve safety in high-rise residential tower blocks.

This review was commissioned by the Government following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 that killed 71 residents.

Dame Hackitt’s review concluded that a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities and inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement has led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices. She has proposed that a new regulatory framework, one comparable to that in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2015/51, is needed.

Regulatory Framework

The proposed revised regulatory framework is a simple model based on ownership of risk which assigns clear responsibilities to clients, designers and contractors in the construction and maintenance of high-risk residential buildings (high-rise tower blocks of ten or more storeys).

There were also calls in the report for the Government to create a new joint competent authority to oversee the management of safety risks within high-risk residential buildings. This joint competent authority would be made up of local authority building standards, fire and rescue authorities, and the Health and Safety Executive. Such a joint authority would allow existing regulators to work together and share their collective knowledge and expertise.

Responsibilities that would fall under the remit of the joint competent authority would include ensuring dutyholders reduce or mitigate building safety risks during the design, construction, occupation and maintenance phases of a project.

It was also proposed that senior dutyholders should inform the joint competent authority, on a no blame basis, of incidents and near misses as part of a mandatory occurrence reporting system. This is aimed at ensuring the identification of deliberate corner-cutting during construction and occupation of such buildings, and addressing issues before they endanger safety.

Dame Hackitt commented: “This is a systemic problem. The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what. Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes. The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and ongoing management of high-rise residential buildings.”

Other recommendations for the new regulatory framework include:

  • a set of rigorous dutyholder roles and responsibilities to ensure a stronger focus on building safety during the design, construction and refurbishment phases – these would broadly align with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2015/51;
  • incentives for the creation of reliably safe buildings from the outset and more serious penalties that align with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for those who “game the system”;
  • a clear and identifiable dutyholder responsible for building safety of the entire high risk residential buildings;
  • a requirement on dutyholders to present safety cases to the joint competent authority at regular intervals during the occupation phase to check that building safety risks are being managed so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • a more effective testing regime with clearer labelling and product traceability;
  • a digital record for new high risk residential buildings from initial design intent through to construction and including any changes throughout occupation. 

Building Standards

In relation to a reform of building standards, the review stated: “It is important that regulatory oversight of these buildings is done in a manner which is completely independent of clients, designers and contractors and that enforcement can and does take place where that is necessary. The ability for dutyholders to choose their own regulator must stop and regulators must be able to enforce as regulators.”

There were also calls to rename the Local Authority Building Control to the Local Authority Building Standards. This body should then be given additional powers to issue enforcement notices where dutyholders have carried out work that fails to comply with the Buildings Regulations.

In line with the interim report recommendations, the Government is currently working with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee to redraft the Approved Document B, which accompanies the Building Regulations.


The report has attracted much criticism fromMPs and campaign groups for its failure to recommend a ban on combustible cladding on high-rise buildings.

There were recommendations on the testing regime for cladding however, with recommendations for the establishment and certification of more test houses, which should produce an annual report including details of tests carried out and the number of passes and failures reported.

It also called for the development of a simpler, streamlined set of standards relating to the testing of products used in high rise residential buildings.

However the review did not recommend a ban on the controversial desktop studies which allow untested materials to be used without carrying out tests where the materials are set on fire.

Government response

There is currently a Government consultation on restricting or banning the use of assessments in lieu of tests as a way of measuring the fire performance of external cladding systems.

Furthermore following the failure of the review to call for a ban on combustible cladding, Prime Minister Theresa May said the that the Government would be willing to ban the use of flammable cladding. She commented: “We are minded to go further by banning combustible materials in cladding on high-rise buildings. We are meeting our legal duty to consult on these proposals, and we will not delay any necessary action.”