Why was the Building Safety Fund needed?
We will all remember the Grenfell Tower tragedy, where a fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, West London caused 72 people to tragically lose their lives.
In the aftermath, it became apparent that the cladding installed at the tower, a combination of combustible Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels and combustible insulation, ignited and significantly contributed to the spread of the fire.
Following widespread reviews of multi-occupancy buildings as recommended by the Government following the tragedy, it soon became apparent that similar cladding systems had been used in many buildings across the country. The initial focus was on ACM type systems, but attention then turned to ‘Non-ACM’ systems (e.g. High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) panels and insulated render systems) that also incorporated combustible materials and were equally a cause for concern.
Complex arguments quickly ensued about whether or not the range of systems installed on thousands of buildings were in breach of the ‘Part B’ fire safety requirements of the Building Regulations at the time of design/construction.
Questions are now understandably being asked about why so many buildings, now considered to be ‘non-compliant’ with the standards at the time of design/construction, were approved for use at the time by building control inspectors. All these issues are now playing out in (often multi-party) litigation across a broad spectrum of parties including developers, designers, contractors and property owners.
These issues are also the focus of the ongoing Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry, which is examining the circumstances and causes of the disaster. The Inquiry has generated much criticism of the various parties involved in the design and construction process, including the product manufacturers, as a result of some highly controversial testimonies and document disclosures in recent months.
Since the Grenfell tragedy occurred, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published various advice notes which broadly recommend that building owners should investigate the composition of external wall systems in their buildings and decide whether remediation of systems incorporating combustible materials is required. Current building owners, acting on the MHCLG advice notes, have commissioned reviews and surveys which have recommended a need for remediation.
The net effect of the above mix of problems is that there are now thousands of buildings across the UK that have been identified as requiring very expensive external wall remediation schemes.