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Probing procurement review for Grenfell inquiry

Grenfell PA  51

Built environment professionals are to carry out an extensive review of the procurement system, to inform the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry.

Working within the Construction Industry Council (CIC), 36 professional bodies will review procurement, design and construction practices in housing, with a view to providing recommendations for improving fire safety. After the initial work on housing, the review will be extended to cover other types of building.

The review will be completed by the autumn and will inform the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry team. CIC chairman John Nolan told New Civil Engineer there was unprecedented cross-industry support for the review, with 50 representatives from the 36 professional bodies unanimously agreeing to its scope.

“It’s an overview of the entire system, looking at every facet of it, and where we feel it can or should be improved we will be making recommendations. But we are not going into it with any preconceptions,” he said.

“It is very clear that there has been a systemic failure which has let these poor people down. We need to review the entire system to establish where the system could and should be improved.”

At this stage, Nolan said it was impossible to tell what recommendations could come out of the review. The exact scope will be finalised over the next two weeks.

Last week the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced an Industry Response Group (IRG) would be set up to help the industry cope with an expected surge in refurbishment demand resulting from cladding tests.

Currently 236 ACM cladding samples have failed tests. A series of six large-scale tests are being carried out on different cladding and insulation combinations; the results will be available within the next few days.

The DCLG has said it anticipates quick action could be needed across the construction industry due to findings from the testing programme. The IRG is made up of Build UK, the CIC and the Construction Products Association.

As well as conducting the review and supporting the construction industry, the CIC is providing expert advice to the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, which includes BRE chief executive Peter Bonfield.

On Friday the government wrote to all building control bodies in England on the advice of the expert panel, highlighting building regulations requirements for buildings over 18m tall. Building control bodies assess work to check it complies with building regulations.

The panel was concerned that extra risks could be created by recladding works. In a letter, the government highlighted the need to ensure cladding systems either meet limited combustibility requirements as set out in Approved Document B, or meet full-scale testing requirements under British Standard 8414.

“In assessing the safety of the cladding system it may be necessary to remove isolated panels either to reveal the construction build up or for testing purposes. In doing so, care should be taken not to create conditions which may worsen the integrity of the cladding system,” said the letter.

It also advised that any original fixings must be checked when new cladding is applied, in case the previous cladding was lighter.

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