A Highway Code for Cladding & Fire Safety

Published: 31/08/2022


When it comes to driving a car, don’t assume that all drivers are good, don’t second guess what other drivers might do or be capable of doing, and be prepared to take appropriate action.

And when it comes to fire safety, façade remediation and construction oversight, those of us tasked with policing what actually goes on on-site have to adopt a robust and forensic methodology such that assuming not everyone knows how to drive properly, is probably not a bad thing.  The point I am driving at here of course is that despite the underlying reasons why façade remediation and fire safety works are required in the first place, we still see poor levels of workmanship, a lack of systems and product knowledge, and ineffective managerial oversight.  By no means am I saying that this is the norm, but what I am saying is that it is occurring too often and that is a worry.

I attended the Housing 2022 conference earlier this year and one of the technical engineering speakers at a fringe event made the point that the standards of workmanship on the façade remediation projects that he was overseeing were shockingly poor in many, many cases.  Incomplete weathering, wrongly installed fire breaks, missing insulation, gaps in sheathing boards, and just crap workmanship!  The audience to my mind didn’t seem to grasp the overall message of his frustration and concern.  Perhaps, hoping that with the proper oversight and due diligence by the relevant authority or entity any such shortcomings would be picked up and dealt with accordingly.  And that my friends is the key – see my final paragraph.

On the night of 14th June, 2017 large parts of our industry got found out, not just in terms of fire safety but in terms of process, design, interpretation, responsibility, knowledge, accuracy, workmanship, and perhaps above all, mindset.

I am by nature an optimist and I always encourage those who work with me to be positive, after all being positive is empowering, engaging and infectious.  So here goes for a bit of positivity.  It is my genuine belief that the majority of those involved in façade remediation and recladding contracts share a level of professionalism and knowledge that in most cases will deliver top-quality work.  To build upon this, what we need to do as an industry is help change the mindset of those who haven’t quite grasped the new normal.  The Building Safety Act is here, the Golden Thread is here, the requirement to place leaseholders and residents in front and centre is here and the need for construction accuracy and evidencing is here; all of this is the new normal.  And there is plenty of evidence that developers, property owners, contractors and construction professionals are stepping up to the mark – we see this every day.  Unfortunately, we also see the bad stuff too. 

The role of construction oversight to my mind is one of the most critical pieces of the façade remediation jigsaw.  Having an effective, knowledgeable, and skilled oversight and evidencing team provides impartial direction, assurance, and comfort to any number of parties including developers, contractors, residents, insurers, and funders.  So, if there are one (or two) things you might wish to take away from this opinion piece, firstly, make sure that everyone involved in your project shares the same mindset and understands the importance of doing the work properly, and secondly, invest in professionals whose primary aim is to set the on-site delivery bar high and to get everyone else involved, over the bar.  To return to my driving analogy, what I am saying is akin to making sure that everyone who gets behind the wheel has the appropriate licence (preferably with no points), shares the notion of safety first and knows their Give Ways from their No Entry’s.

 

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

For more information, assistance and advice on our own Construction Oversight Services or on any related cladding, fire safety or regulatory matter please get in touch. Call 0203 195 0857 and contact Shaun Harris shaun@harrisassociatesuk.com or Tamer Duman tamer@harrisassociatesuk.com

 

Written by Shaun Harris

 

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Chioma Ibe
Email: chioma@harrisassociatesuk.com
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