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Lucy Carmichael Q&A

Lucy Carmichael, RIBA director of practice discusses the launch of the consultation for the RIBA Plan of Work for Fire Safety

What are you hoping this consultation will achieve? How do you want members to get involved?

This initiative is RIBA driven but it’s an industry-wide consultation. We’ve been pushing it through the likes of Building magazine and professional bodies like the Institute of Clerks of Works and even insurance companies. We want feedback on whether this process will improve fire safety – a sense check of what’s happening on the ground with the profession,   including any commercial pressures that might influence roles and information. Have we got the detail of the deliverables schedule right?

How does the Plan of Work for Fire Safety strengthen accountability for project teams?

It is bringing together a new statutory framework as recommended by the Hackitt review with more clarity in how projects are managed, which is the cultural shift. Most accountability will be driven through the proposed extension of CDM2015 and the principle of statutory dutyholders for construction health and safety to include building user life safety. It’s important to make it clear who’s responsible for what at each stage.

Will  this overlay require a ground shift in the way architects approach their responsibilities within the Plan of Work?

This isn’t about creating unnecessary paperwork, it’s about embedding fire safety at an earlier stage, in a more formalised way. The Plan of Work systematises who’s doing what at each stage. If the process for developing, co-ordinating and signing off information is followed it could generate efficiencies, and avoid abortive work due to late redesign. Some architects may resist the extended role of principal designer – but if they want to lead the design process, with power comes responsibility.

Is this actually going to be adopted?

It needs to be fine-tuned, but it will be adopted within the RIBA Plan of Work guidance as a process map for fire safety roles, responsibilities and deliverables. There will be other overlays too – for sustainability and ethics for instance. All must be embedded early in the process.

Are other changes to the building regs, such as with cladding, sprinklers and means of escape, likely to be incorporated into the guidance?

Regulation on sprinklers and cladding will be strengthened but might not go as far as the RIBA wishes. Sprinklers are mandated in Wales and Scotland in residential buildings so there’s a precedent. Secondary means of escape is a bigger issue. The cost of upgrading the public estate would be enormous. Until now there’s been no need to retroactively apply regs, but would existing council tenants accept lower safety standards? Regulation is also likely to be influenced by public opinion and what liabilities insurers will accept.


View the consultation here 

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