A “lack of competence” in building design or construction means we could be risking more serious fires on the scale of the Grenfell Tower disaster, according to the London Fire Brigade (LFB).
The independent inquiry into the West London fire, which is being led by Dame Judith Hackitt, has been urged to investigate the loophole which means that fire safety aspects of a building can be designed without any input from fire safety professionals.
The LFB believes that “urgent action” is needed to bring in regulation so that a building’s design, construction and maintenance must be checked by a qualified professional.
Dan Daly, assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “It took a tragedy for everyone to take fire safety seriously and listen to what the brigade has been saying for years about skills.
“There are countless points where a dangerous decision can be made about a building’s design or upkeep and hardly any measures to ensure that the people making those decisions are sufficiently experienced and properly qualified.”
Dangerous design flaws
Daly added: “This means that potentially dangerous design flaws could exist within a building until we either find it at a later date, or in the worst case scenario, it is exposed by a serious fire.
“We don’t have the legal powers or the resources to check the entire fabric of a building but we often uncover dangerous flaws that we can’t ignore.”
Daly believes that we are faced with a “once in a generation” chance to look at these issues and make buildings safer in the future.
Last week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the government to set aside money to fit sprinklers to all council and housing association high-rise blocks. He said the £1bn needed for such a step ought to be built into Philip Hammond’s upcoming Autumn Budget.
“Retrofitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing is something that could make a vital difference to people’s safety,” said Corbyn.
Shortly after the Grenfell Tower disaster in June this year, a survey by Simple Landlords Insurance showed more than half of landlords had increased their checks since the incident.