Build­ing codes in need of over­haul

Tampa Bay Times - - Nation & World -

Bri­tain’s build­ing safety sys­tems are a lax and con­fused mess in need of a ma­jor over­haul and much tougher enforcement, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor com­mis­sioned af­ter the Gren­fell Tower dis­as­ter re­ported Thurs­day, but she did not rec­om­mend ban­ning all flammable fa­cades, a crit­i­cal fac­tor in that fire. The re­port drew swift re­bukes from sur­vivors of the fire, which killed 71 peo­ple, and from Labour mem­bers of Par­lia­ment. They have de­manded a ban on flammable cladding of the sort used on Gren­fell Tower — a move the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects has also en­dorsed. That cladding has long been pro­hib­ited in the United States for build­ings above a cer­tain height, and in some places it is banned en­tirely. Judith Hackitt, the en­gi­neer com­mis­sioned by the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment to con­duct the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­knowl­edged “there is a need for a rad­i­cal re­think of the whole sys­tem and how it works.” But she also main­tained her mission was to as­sess the big pic­ture. As a re­sult, her 159-page re­port did not ad­dress spe­cific changes peo­ple have called for. De­spite the crit­i­cism, Hackitt’s re­port amounted to a strik­ing in­dict­ment of prop­erty de­vel­op­ers and re­lated in­dus­tries, and the of­fi­cials who police them. The rules and prac­tices for high-rise apart­ment build­ings, in par­tic­u­lar, she wrote, have put the quest to get things done “as quickly and cheaply as pos­si­ble” ahead of safety while let­ting own­ers skirt even the in­ad­e­quate stan­dards that ex­ist. She rec­om­mended creation of a new agency to make the stan­dards both tougher and clearer, and greatly step up enforcement and penal­ties.

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