All credit should be given to the RIBA for its new plan of work for fire safety consultation.
This takes the Hackitt Review recommendations to improve the fire safety of high-risk residential buildings and maps these against the seven stages of work. This includes defining the fire safety strategy at Stage 2 (concept design), submitting full plans for approval at Stage 4 (technical design) and ensuring the building is fire safe before occupation at Stage 6 (handover).
The RIBA has recognised that the plan of work is used by the whole industry, not just architects, and includes key milestones for all three dutyholders identified by Hackitt – the client, principal designer and contractor. It is also good to see the RIBA embracing Hackitt after it initially described it as a “missed opportunity” for failing to take on board the RIBA’s mission to ban combustible cladding, make sprinklers mandatory and provide two means of escape.
Although the plan of work is a good start and shows the industry is taking the initiative, it could be a touch premature. The government is still formulating an official response, which may include legislation.
This response could diverge from Dame Judith’s recommendations. Although the plan of work does include an in-use stage, it was originally designed for the design and construction of buildings. It could benefit from being extended to emphasise the ongoing role of building managers to ensure fire safety and send a clear signal to the industry that fire safety doesn’t end on handover.