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Maintenance of regulatory frameworks can be considered key essential for effective management of construction projects. Over the years, a number of construction disasters are noticed, which not only concerns health and safety but also hinders environmental protection. Hence, effective compliance, as well as management maintaining regulatory provisions, is important to alleviate possibilities of such issues. The essay critically evaluates existing regulatory frameworks and probable improvements on planning, building control, and CDM. An emphasis is also provided on three concerning disasters incorporating Ronan Point 1968, Lakanal House 2009, and Grenfell Tower 2017. Importance of current provisions to address a range of issues is also illustrated to deliver a sustainable prospect in UK construction industry.
Construction industry in United Kingdom has been witnessing a couple of issues and challenges starting from low productivity, poor planning, and inadequate management to comply with regulatory provisions, and more. These have been resulting in an increasing number of building disasters, which mirror that effective regulatory framework in planning, building control, and others can facilitate improvement. According to Li, Greenwood &Kassem (2019), UK construction industry is required to adopt more regulatory provisions from a safety point of view, which can reinforce regulatory frameworks in this industry. One of the primary planning legislation related to the UK construction industry is the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (Legislation.gov.uk, 2021). It is an act, which consolidated enactments relating to special controls and constraints with regard to buildings and constructions in England and Wales.
Possibility of prevention of damages can be fostered largely with effective planning in the context of constructing a building. Larsson & Larsson (2020) opined that considering today’s highly complex construction and infrastructure projects, sustainability management has become integral. While initiating construction projects,Sustainable management equivalents to effective planning. Hence, under Planning Act 1990, repairs notice is regarded as preliminary to acquisition under section 47, which is intended to eliminate probability of damages related to buildings. Changes in section 22 of this particular act are about to be in force on or before 16th December 2021.
Town and Country Planning Act 1968 in UK construction industry have surpassed a number of alterations, which address safety and environmental protection from planning of buildings. With numerous changes concerning planning and development controls of buildings, Town and Country Planning Act 1990 introduced a plan-led system in UK construction. Section 215 of this regulatory provision enables LPA to serve notices in case of harmful buildings or lands (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2021). These changes largely contribute to maintaining safety issues under management of planning.
BSI is the national governing body in UK, which serves the purpose of ensuring building controls. British Building Standards offer technical practices or specifications, which are largely used to act as a guide while producing construction projects. BS 8536:2010 of Building standards are changed or replaced with BS 8536-1:2015 briefing for design and construction in 2015 (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2021). Often disasters noticed in refurbishment of buildings in UK can be retorted with this improvement, as its standards apply to involved personnel. Fire safety is another major building control initiative, which exhibits a code of practice, reinforced by a regulatory framework of BS: 9999 (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2021). A concerning residential disaster in recent times, Grenfell Tower in 2017 can be a classic example of inadequate fire safety. Therefore, compliance with such British Building Standards is to be ensured by management in UK construction industry, which can deliver safety measures in constructions and refurbishments.
Improvements in existing regulatory provision for UK construction industry for building control is derived by Building Regulations 2010 revoking and replacing Building Regulations 2000. Its regulations are consolidated to ensure that effective building control is placed within management of UK construction projects. Edmondson, Kern & Rogge (2019) propounded that planned updates in building regulations are intended to lead towards a sustainable framework in constructions. For instance, regulation 7 of Building Regulations 2010 delivers guidance concerning materials and workmanship, and hence, use of appropriate materials while constructing buildings is to be followed, leading to effective building controls. Changes are also amended in Building Regulations 2010 in 2018, where fire safety and materials are revised in requirements (Assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, 2018). Thus, improvements are fortified with effective changes and amendments in regulatory provisions in UK construction industry to address building control.
CDM regulations in UK construction industry
Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM) impose duties on architects and designers of construction projects in UK to consider health and safety implications in building constructions. Hare, Kumar & Campbell (2020) illustrated that identification of construction hazards can be attempted beforehand to alleviate possibilities of disasters and risks, which is facilitated under CDM regulations. Its fundamental requirements exhibit effective planning to manage risks throughout, having right personnel, and others.
Improvements in CDM regulations can be made with adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM), where CDM and BIM can be a perfect amalgamation to ensure health and safety in UK construction industry (Mzyece, Ndekugri&Ankrah, 2019). BIM level 2 was became mandated by UK government in 2016 for all public construction projects, funded by the government. In addition, updates in CDM 2020regulations in UK construction projects can be encouraging, though it is put on hold due to COVID-19 and BREXIT (Iosh.com, 2021). Safety in construction projects starting from RIDDOR, BIM, and others are to be revised, which can positively reduce construction disasters.
Ronan Point 1968
Ronan Point disaster was a 22-storey tower block in East London, which witnessed a partial collapse on 16th May 1968, two months after its opening. Furthermore, a gas explosion has accelerated collapse of an entire tower, leading to death of four people with 17 resident injuries. According to Chapman (2019), construction disasters such as Ronan Point are largely driven by substandard quality, rapid building, which needed to be addressed with adequate regulatory frameworks. Safety problem is noticed to have been a key issue with this particular construction disaster, which is related to its panel-built design. [Refer to Appendix 1]
Technical guidance from 1968 illustrated importance of joints, where load-bearing walls could be knocked out. The BBC report exhibits that cavities in that building were filled with newspaper and rubbish instead of concrete, which led to this building acting as a ‘house of cards’ (Bbc.com, 2018). Moreover, this building was constructed by unskilled workers, and often paid for fast working than correctness, which surely defied provision 7 of Building Regulations 2010. Another problem was fire, which in case of extremism of gas explosion could lead to falling of wall, as in Ronan Point. Furthermore, sheer scales of this construction project could be attributed to Housing Act 1956, which initiated subsidies to local councils for every floor over five storeys (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2020). Ronan Point disaster has resulted in changes in various building regulations in UK.
Lakanal House 2009
A high-rise fire being developed and spread in various flats in this twelve-storey building caused this particular construction disaster. A number of safety breachesare found in the Lakanal house disaster, which was a refurbishment work though planned for demolition (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2020). Limitations and gaps in the existing building regulations in 1968 are also noticed. For instance, spread of fire revealed a breach concerning a fire-resistant system, inadequate compartmentalisation in suspended ceilings of this building, and not having smoke seals on fire doors. [Refer to Appendix 2] Gorse &Sturges (2017) reported that Lakanal House disaster of 2009 witnessed cladding made up of composite panels in window sets, which was not demanded to be fire-resistant according to the then building standards. It further emphasised that since it was a refurbishment work similar to Grenfell Tower, retrofit comprising this building’s fire safety is questioned.
Moreover, layout of Lakanal building did not allow easy escape, while absence of a central fire alarm system is also noticed, which was also not required in accordance with Approved Document B of Building Regulations. Augustin (2019) further opined legal ramifications of this catastrophic event of Lakanal House disaster, which was fined £270,000 for breaching fire safety regulations. Though safety-breaching issue persisted in this construction disaster, yet a better regulatory framework could have saved this disaster in UK construction industry.
Grenfell Tower 2017
The 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster witnessed a monstrous fire spread rapidly around combustible facade system rapidly outside this building, which killed 72 people. According to McKenna et al. (2019), investigation of this building has evaluated fire behaviour of used facade products in this building, which accelerated speed and lethality of fire. Use of facade materials is perceived not to meet regulation 7 of Building Regulations 2010, which is regarding materials and workmanship. This refurbishment project used Reynobond 55 cladding panels with polythene cores, which has fuelled the blaze in this residential building. Chen et al. (2019) further illustrated that use of highly combustible polyethylene (PE) in Grenfell tower exposed negligence and faults in existing building regulations. [Refer to Appendix 3] Changes related to tests and cladding are adopted in Building Regulations for UK construction industry.
Cladding regulations under British Building Standards and Regulations seem to have failed in Grenfell Tower disaster. Nevertheless, a full-scale review of Approved Document B of Buildings Regulations was amended in 2018 to reduce complexity of fire safety in construction projects. In addition, volumes were eliminated for their potential errors related to dampers fitted to vents of smoke shafts in 2019 (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2021). Besides, this update in UK Building Regulations also included products to reduce heat gain to an external wall. Hence, changes are evident in regulatory frameworks, which are intended to alleviate such construction disasters in UK.
Current provisionsin UK construction industry incorporate a handful of regulatory frameworks and legislations. These are British Building Standards along with Building Regulations 2010, Building Act 1984, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, CDM regulation 2015, Approved Document B, and others.
Importance of current provisions
Importance of the Building Act 1984 in UK construction industry lies in the fact that it empowers as well as obliges local authorities, which is intended to enforce building regulations in regional areas. Kivimaa&Martiskainen (2018) propounded that UK has been witnessing dynamics of policy changes to reinforce more sustainable buildings, low-energy homes for instance. In addition, a number of provisions are incorporated in Building Regulations, such as structure, fire safety, toxic substances, sanitation, ventilation, and various others.
Compliance with these regulatory essentials allows construction managers and engineers to address and alleviate issues of health and safety along with other managerial and environmental catastrophes. Moreover, Billingtonet al. (2017) derived an emphasis on Approved Document B guidance, which exhibits different approaches to building design. It further reflected Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011, which intended to build a construction requirement concerning new homes, must have fire suppression system. It is not to mention that disasters such as Grenfell Tower, Lakanal House, and Ronan Point have exhibited safety breaches resulting in fire spread. Hence, significance of such regulatory frameworks is undeniable considering their contribution to mitigating safety and environmental issues.
Issues in various areas concerning UK construction industry
Typical management in construction activitiesis often regarded as a key issue in construction projects. For instance, inadequate and detrimental management activities are noticed in construction of Ronan Point, where unskilled workers were accountable, and paid for working fast (Bbc.com, 2018). Besides, use of poor materials such as paper and rubbish in cavities in place of using concrete had led to such cataclysmic disaster. It shows adverse management practices on part of owners, who have clearly failed to comply with provisions of British Building Standards. In this regard, existing Building standards for BS 8000 covers workmanship during implementation of certain works on construction sites (Park & Corner, 2021). It further emphasised that section 7(1) of Building Regulations 2010 concerns materials and workmanship, and therefore, compliance with this provision can avoid such practice of management within construction projects of UK.
Issues of health and safety have been concerning for such construction disasters as noticed in each of the above three incidents. Umar &Egbu (2020) opined that high heat stress has been underlying reason for such a great prevalence of construction disasters. Hence, it illustrated implementation of CDM regulations in UK, which is intended to meet safety expectations of UK construction industry. Potential failures of fire prevention measures are also observed in buildings and refurbishment projects in the United Kingdom, where regulatory framework of Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011 can address safety issues (Littlewoodet al. 2017). For example, smoke control system at Grenfell Tower was faulty, as ventilation and fire prevention was effective for a single door. Besides, McKenna et al. (2019) propounded that use of facade products in cladding may have ignited this fire disaster. Hence, it cannot be denied that this construction disaster of refurbishment project could have been eliminated with compliance with Building Standards of ventilation and other fire protection measures.
Construction disasters such as Grenfell, Ronan Point, Lakanal House, and others in UK construction history have potential environmental issues, which demand regulatory provisions. In this context, Environmental Protection Act in United Kingdom shapes waste management during construction projects along with emission controls, and hence, strengthens enforcement and control concerning environmental issues in construction. Neverthlss, Ding et al. (2018) argued that inadequate green building codes and regulations in United Kingdom are integral barriers to fortifying environmental protection. However, some recent adoptions by UK government related to regulatory provisions can address issues of environmental protection. For instance, sustainable constitution projects in UK can be facilitated with Climate Change Act (Designingbuildings.co.uk, 2021). However, covering these issues can also be initiated with Part L of Building Regulations, which is regarding conservation of fuels and powers in dwellings. Furthermore, according to Malinauskaiteet al. (2019), Energy Efficiency Regulation (Building renovation and Reporting) 2014 along with Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme Regulations 2014 can address environmental protection in UK construction industry. Thus, though existing provisions can cover this particular issue of environment, which is rather aggravated by such disasters, yet adoption and improvement of other regulatory frameworks can be beneficial.
From this above study, it can be concluded that presence of a wide number of regulatory frameworks in UK construction industry intends to address related issues. However, emergence of concerning construction disasters, such as Ronan Point 1968, Lakanal House 2009, and Grenfell Tower 2017 call for improvement and more rigidity of provisions. Non-compliance with regulatory frameworks is noticed to be a key issue for such ranges of construction disasters. Moreover, since wake of Ronan Point disaster in 1968, UK governments in Building standards, regulations, and other provisions make a couple of changes. These regulatory frameworks are also noticed to cover various related issues such as health and safety, typical management in construction activities, and environment. However, improvements and commitments are still needed to ensure a sustainable construction industry in UK.
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