Building codes in need of overhaul
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.