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VIEWS


21


VIEW POINT


Richard Harral of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) says the lessons we need to learn from Dame Judith Hackitt’s post-Grenfell review must include a wider look at our society’s relationship with its buildings, and regulatory reform


A


ttention has been quite rightly focused on fire safety issues in new and existing buildings since the


terrible events at Grenfell Tower. It is vital that the problems identified within the Hackitt review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety are addressed, and that the lessons emerging from the public inquiry are studied and learnt from.


This will require extensive change in industry culture, custom and practice, procurement and competency. Most of this is long overdue, and the changes that must be driven through will undoubtedly prove to be broadly beneficial in curing many of the industry’s structural ills.


As industry and government work to clarify how this change will be implemented, it is vital that time is also given to broader consideration of the value we should place on our relationship with our built environment both individually and as a society. What would we conclude if the lens of public opinion was focused on more clearly defining what society should expect the building industry to deliver? Firstly, it is clear that the public expect government and industry to act responsibly in protecting them from harm. Establishing safety is, however, not a static condition – construction is increasingly sophisticated and evolving by necessity at a pace far faster than the historic norm to address rapidly emerging issues of national and global concern which reach beyond fire safety.


Overheating – a global issue With temperatures having remained high through a glorious but parching summer, it must now be clear that the impact of climate change will require the way we shape our built environment to evolve further to protect us better.


The changes that must be driven through will undoubtedly prove to be broadly beneficial in curing many of the industry’s structural ills


The risk of overheating is becoming more tangible, and periods of sustained high temperature pose safety risks to thousands of people as well as degrading working conditions for millions in poor performing buildings. The Committee on Climate Change predicts that premature deaths from overheating will increase by two-thirds by the 2020s, which places the risks associated with overheating in clear perspective. There is a growing body of evidence to show that the risk of overheating is increasing, especially in new homes, and that the current regulatory checks for overheating contained in the current Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) have fallen behind and need to be updated. Heavy rain amid such dry weather risks flash flooding as water runs off baked ground – but similar extreme weather events also increase the risk of flooding in the non-summer seasons. We need to be sure that the way we design and renovate our buildings provides protection and resilience where these events are likely to occur.


Closing the gap We must also continue to look to play our part in limiting climate change by making our buildings more energy efficient. The expectation in the UK’s Climate Change Act is that the entirety of UK building stock is carbon neutral by 2050, a date which no


© Chiraljon


longer feels in the distant future. The well-recognised performance gap that exists between the way buildings are intended to perform and the way they perform in practice may be closing, but needs to be closed entirely. The reasons for poor performance are numerous, with many potentially energy efficient systems not operating as the designer intended as a result of not been properly checked and signed off. This has only emphasised the importance of testing and commissioning to ensure systems


ADF SEPTEMBER 2018


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