Developers still building high-rises that won’t meet future regs

Developers are still building schemes they know will fail to meet incoming safety standards, according to a government-backed report.

The fourth annual report of the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG), chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, said it had seen “hard evidence” that some developers are not paying enough attention to new building-safety requirements in the design stage.

The report said: “Not only is it disappointing that they are failing to ‘do the right thing’ but we do not understand the mindset when they may well face serious challenge from the [Building Safety Regulator] before the building is handed over for occupation and/or they may be creating future need for remediation work.”

The report particularly criticised developers that are still building high-rise buildings with single staircases, after housing secretary Michael Gove confirmed last summer that second staircases would be required in residential buildings over 18 metres in height.

It said: “Actions like this show little regard for the future gateways in the process which they know are coming.”

Gove clarified in October that the requirement for second staircases would not be enforced until 2026 and appeared to signal that he was relaxed about the construction of single-staircase high-rise buildings before then.

He said: “I want to be absolutely clear that existing and upcoming single-staircase buildings are not inherently unsafe. They will not later need to have a second staircase added, when built in accordance with relevant standards, well-maintained and properly managed.”

The ISSG also criticised the industry for its lack of leadership on building safety, adding that it had worked with organisations that considered the issue “peripheral”.

“We still observe a widespread culture of reliance, expecting to be told step-by-step by government and the regulator how to keep buildings safe,” the report said.

The criticism echoes comments Hackitt made to Construction News last year that she expects contractors to be proactive in changing their building-safety practices, rather than relying on the Building Safety Regulator.

The ISSG was set up under the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in 2018 to monitor the built-environment profession’s progress towards a building-safety culture change.

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