Two years After Grenfell, it’s Time for Action

There appears to be immense frustration in Britain that little real reform has occurred since the Grenfell fire and that the Public (Coronial) Inquiry is not expected to be finished and reported until late 2021. Even then, many people fear the UK Government may do very little in response to the Hackitt Report and the Public Inquiry findings.

On the second anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, the Guardian newspaper published “The Shameful truth about Britain’s Response to Grenfell” within which the paper says:

“Grenfell was not only predictable, it was predicted. It did not take that tragedy to teach us what happens when negligent landlords and shoddy builders come together in the age of cost cutting and regulatory ambivalence. We already knew. But it has raised the question whether we as a society, cared enough to do anything about it. So long as a similar tragedy could happen tomorrow, the answer is a shameful no”.

There is a class action lawsuit in the US against the manufacturers of the combustible insulation and aluminium clad panels placed on the Grenfell Building.

Here in Australia, there is also little evidence of government action as the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) continues moving slowly, with many building owners frustrated over the facade safety issues, and no real cultural or major policy change.

We thank the Victorian Building Authority for their strong support for original research to address shortcomings in fire safety design controls.

So now is the time for serious reform of the building and construction industry. We need all the major players to heed the call for action and come together to make stand and rally work with governments to create real change and a new culture of high-quality work by competent practitioners.

The Warren Centre is leading the way for fire safety engineering, which may generate the blueprint for change in other design and construction disciplines and amongst approval authorities. Our research and reports now available for all create some important pathways:

  • Our Regulation Report makes some clear recommendations for national consistency, emphasising the need for model administrative provisions in relation to fire safety engineering, and raising the issue of need for independent appointment of private certifiers.
  • Our Education Report highlights the need for significant improvements in some fire safety engineering education courses and accreditation schemes.
  • Our Methods Report raises evidence of concerns about the Fire Safety Verification Method and the concept of DTS Equivalence. There is a clear need for quantification of Performance Requirements, and these could be a useful contribution to the Australian Building Codes Board as they look to NCC 2022.
  • Our present work to date on the future role of fire safety engineers is highlighting a future aspirational role to look across all aspects of fire safety design, all Performance Requirements and not just Performance Solutions, and to get involved beyond schematic design and into construction inspection, commissioning, and project handover, in line the recommendations of the UK Hackitt Review and the Shergold/Weir Building Confidence Report to ensure the “chain of responsibility”.

The time for action is now, before Australia experiences more incidents like the Lacrosse and Neo 200 fires or the Opal and Mascot Towers structural failures.  Now is the time to act and to pre-empt clearly unacceptable risks in the homes of average families. Now is the time to act to pre-empt the potential for a significant loss of life.

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