Friday, 23 June 2017

Grenfell Tower: Could procurement help reduce the current risk?

Few could fail to be affected by the tragic disaster of Grenfell Tower. Understandably there has been a clamour for a quick response to reduce the risk of a repeat, but I wonder if the potential use of procurement as a speedy risk mitigator is being overlooked.

Attention is being given to having the cladding on something like 600 tower blocks tested and fire inspections carried out.  While that will provide some comfort and be politically expedient it there may be faster ways in providing reassurances to those potentially at risk.

Let's face it for cladding to have been installed there needed to be a specification, a contractor and a completion. Would it not be possible to use make use of that trio for providing a quicker response:

  1. Each landlord checks the specification for cladding to see if, with the benefit of hindsight, it satisfies today's safety requirement; (If landlords don't have the capability then perhaps some central support could be provided to QA the specification);
  2. If the specification is considered 'fit for today's needs' we then ask the contractor for a written undertaking as to whether they fitted the specified cladding. Failure to give that undertaking could be place the contractor on a 'naming and shaming list' and potentially be taken into consideration in the award of future contracts. Health & Safety legislation and Contract Law could be used to address those who feel short in delivering the specification;
  3. If the specification is no longer acceptable then at least we have a short list to progress for further prioritisation;
  4. Where the specification is appropriate and the contractor provides an undertaking that they complied, then you can provide some reassurance to residents and move those site visits further down the queue;
If I am correct, this strategy could provide reassurance in hours rather that weeks. Document analysis and quality assurance is at its core rather than the much slower inspection and testing. Is what I propose over-simplistic or have I missed something?

I'm not suggesting there will not be a need for a comprehensive response of testing, inspections, and review of Building Regulations, but that can happen against a background of the proposed prioritisation

Of course, the finger may well be pointed at construction procurement anyway, for example, poor specifying, poor contract supervision and management are obvious potential vulnerabilities, as will be allegations of fraud and corruption!

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