Rarely has such intent been expressed in a Queen’s Speech to bring into law measures to tighten fire safety.
Two bills have been announced:
The first, on building safety, addresses mainly lessons from the 2017 Grenfell fire with commitment to implement the recommendations from the Hackitt Review. The bill sets out to strengthen the whole regulatory regime – which presumably can be taken to include enforcement – for buildings and products. Part is also to give residents a stronger voice. Emphasis will be on responsibility and accountability. Making sure that the right people who make mistakes are brought to book is there and specifically noted.
Where products and building resilience are concerned then levels of performance will be emphasized.
That could, one can imagine, require a re-consideration towards longer resistance times given the uncertainty of fire and the extreme intensities of modern fires, as so
catastrophically shown by Grenfell. This may also mean wider use of barrier materials that are less vulnerable than others to thermal stress and high temperatures characteristic of modern fires.
The second bill, on fire safety, signals intent to implement the recommendations from the Moore Bick Grenfell enquiry. It aims to make sure that another Grenfell never happens again. And it will update the Fire Safety Order (2005).
That’s to include, for example, risk assessments of the façade concerning potential to affect everybody in common.
It’s possible to see that parts of fire safety building design will have to be reviewed, and they may in part mean improved levels of resilience and better assurance that constructions can adequately resist fire.
Much safer buildings will require better protection for occupiers to get out without risks to their lives, with much more time to do so, especially if circumstances determine they become trapped and more vulnerable due to heat and smoke.
More access may be necessary to more resilient sanctuaries than normally provided. Extended protected times to contain fire spread and protect against flames may well be critical. And construction will need to be robust enough to allow that to happen.
This Parliament will be a major one for fire safety in 2020 as the Grenfell enquiry picks up again on 27 January.