Building consultancy takes its own steps to counter Hackitt Review “failings”

Building surveying, cost management, architecture and project management specialist Trident Building Consultancy has taken the decision to set its own rules regarding fire safety following what it sees as the “extraordinary failings” of the final recommendations from the Hackitt Review which were published yesterday.

Trident is banning the use on its projects of any desktop fire safety studies to prove the suitability of a product or system, and will only specify rigorously tested and proven non-combustible materials for use on refurbished and new buildings.

In addition, it now requires a far more robust method of large-scale product testing, and is considering reintroducing a clerk of works type service on projects wherever possible to try and ensure a much higher standard of installation.

Matthew Clare, one of the founding directors of Trident, said:

“I was disappointed when I read the Hackitt Review report. Expectations were very high and have not been met.

“Of course, we welcome the commitment to tighten the loose and ambiguous wording of the Building Regulations and Approved Document B. The current wording is so grey, so thin, so open to wildly different interpretation. This is one step in the right direction.

“But I was flabbergasted that the use of desktop studies in the process of material selection was not completely struck out in the Hackitt Review recommendations. Relying on someone else’s work and picking out bits of it to suit your case is not a sound basis for demonstrating compliance.

“Indeed, it’s worse than that. In multiple buildings that we have been looking at over the last year, we have found that not even a desktop study had been carried out before getting sign off from the local authority’s building control department or an approved inspector. Nothing. No checks whatsoever that cladding or an insulation system was fit for purpose.”

Trident is now refusing to accept desktop studies, and is advising property investors, developers and owners to carry out careful assessments of the risk and costs of remedial works on certain projects, including student accommodation and other multiple occupancy blocks.

Having completed more than 20 large-scale fire tests since last June, Matthew Clare is highly critical of how some manufacturers of cladding and insulation systems have been able to manipulate the testing regime to get a Euroclass A2 ‘limited combustibility’ rating for products which were patently not appropriate.

“We will always advocate empirical testing on large-scale samples,” he says.

“Before Trident will specify any product, we will want to see that testing has been carried out in a robust fashion, using a faithful replica of what will be used on a building and that building’s design features. The devil is in the detail.

“Furthermore, we must be entirely sure that what is tested is what will then be installed – and to exactly the same tolerances. I’ve seen systems that pass fire safety tests when used with a 10mm gap but fail when there’s a 12mm gap. There is absolutely no substitute for quality control of installation, as well as product manufacture and testing.”

Trident Building Consultancy provides building surveying, cost management and project management services across a wide range of sectors in commercial and residential property, and across all parts of the private sector, local and central government.

Most recently, it has been involved in assessing, specifying and project managing the remedial works required on a number of high rise residential buildings that had been clad with similar systems as used at Grenfell Tower, and which also displayed many of the same passive fire safety failures such as lack of compartmentation and missing or damaged fire doors.

Trident was formed in 1998 and currently employs more than 100 staff across 11 offices in the UK and Ireland, enabling it to have a nationwide capability to deliver sound, reliable advice from a solid base of qualified and experienced surveyors and architects.

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