LONDON – Britain’s building safety systems are a lax and confused mess in need of a major overhaul and much tougher enforcement, an investigator commissioned after the Grenfell Tower disaster reported Thursday, but she did not recommend banning all flammable facades, a critical factor in that fire.
The report drew swift rebukes from survivors of the fire, which killed 71 people, and from Labour members of Parliament, who have demanded a ban on flammable cladding of the sort used on Grenfell Tower, a move the Royal Institute of British Architects has also endorsed.
That cladding has long been prohibited in the United States for buildings above a certain height, and in some places it is banned entirely.
Judith Hackitt, the engineer commissioned by the Conservative government to conduct the investigation, acknowledged that “there is a need for a radical rethink of the whole system and how it works.” But she also maintained that her mission was to assess the big picture.
As a result, her 159-page report did not address specific changes people have called for, like a cladding ban or requiring sprinklers and multiple fire stairs in high-rise buildings.
“This review is a betrayal and a whitewash,” said David Lammy, a Labour lawmaker who has become one of the government’s most outspoken critics. “It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on flammable cladding has not been banned.”
Despite the criticism, Hackitt’s report amounted to a striking indictment of property developers and related industries and the officials who police them.
She recommended creation of a new agency, focused at first on residential high-rises, that would gather all the government roles under one roof, make the standards for everyone involved both tougher and clearer, and greatly step up enforcement and penalties.