Doing The Right Thing - 5 Years On From Grenfell

Published: 19/04/2022

The day after Grenfell, a client asked me what I thought had happened and who was responsible.  My answer was “collective failure by committee”.  What I meant by that was that it would seem likely that no one entity or group would be found solely guilty.   My explanation to my client was that there would likely have been multiple failures by multiple parties stretching across design, product choice, quality control, workmanship, oversight, interpretation of standards, contractual ambiguities and matters pertaining to compliance.  The Grenfell enquiries are evidencing the scale of those collective failures. 


The focus for much of the intervening period has been on remediating multi-occupancy buildings that have storey heights above 18 metres.  In early 2020 and in response to the government commitment to fund remediation of ACM and Non-ACM blocks of flats over 18 metres in storey height, we advised that

the tougher challenge will be those multi-occupancy residential blocks that have a storey height of between 11 and 18 metres

Two ministers later, on 13th April 2022 Michael Gove announced that the government has received pledges from 36 major housebuilders and developers to help meet the cost of and pay for cladding remediation work required for residential blocks with storey heights above 11 metres. That number is expected in the short term to rise to over fifty firms.  
The direction of travel has never been clearer in respect of how the government wants to see leaseholders protected and what it expects from the construction industry in respect of those responsible for stepping up and “doing the right thing”. Housebuilders and developers have consistently been the main target and it seems Gove now has something to show for his efforts. There will need to be a not-insignificant amount of sorting through the detail of how buildings are identified as requiring remediation and then working out who and how best to execute the work.  This will all unfortunately take many years.  However, at least the industry has acknowledged that the failures are theirs, as well as those of successive governments, and are willing quite rightly to right the wrongs of the past.

London Buildings with facades

What has seen significantly less success for the government is Gove’s dealings with the Construction Products Association.   In his letter of 13th April, there can be little doubt about the intentions of the government in bringing products and material manufacturers to the remediation table.  I understand why the developers and housebuilders may well have to bear much of the responsibility if only from the perspective that it is their names on the top of the marketing brochures and developments were built under their umbrella but to my mind there will surely be instances where the developers and housebuilders have also been victims of the same malaise that has adversely and significantly affected the lives of leaseholders and residents.  There will be designers, contractors, sub-contractors, product manufacturers as well as those with a duty to oversee these entities, who will have borne much responsibility for delivering sub-standard and often non-compliant homes. 


Last weeks’ government announcements feel like the end of the beginning but fall some way short of the beginning of the end.  Gove is seemingly a man on a mission and unless he gets the nod for the number one job, pending how the current occupant of No. 10 fairs over the coming weeks and months, it seems that there is much for those other than developers and housebuilders to be wary of as the government pursues its intention to ensure all responsible players are persuaded to do the right thing. 


Harris Associates has its own in-house façade team, comprising of technicians, engineers, and project managers.  We have overseen sixty-plus remediation schemes and we advise on compliance matters, carry out investigations, compliance reviews, EWS1 work and coordinate and deliver PAS 9980 assessments. 
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Written By Shaun Harris