Matt Hodges-Long 27/05/2021
I’m immersed in the Building Safety Crisis full time and a self-confessed Governance, Risk and Compliance nerd. So it won’t surprise you to learn that I believe in the importance of facts. The way we determine facts is by looking for evidence.
If a statement cannot be evidenced, at best it’s a belief or an opinion, at worst a deliberate lie.
When it comes to Building Safety, the facts really do matter as lives and livelihoods are at stake. With a crisis of this size and complexity, it can be incredibly difficult to separate facts from fiction, especially when sophisticated ‘spin’ cycles are at play.
This post takes a quick look at some of the ‘facts’ that have crossed my desk this week:
This week we have heard evidence from the inquiry about Fire Risk Assessors’ fabricated post-nominals and cut and pasted content within risk assessments, such as the presence of balconies.
Both of these key failings could have been spotted with some basic due diligence. In the case of the post-nominals, a quick check online with the professional institutions would have sufficed. As for the Fire Risk Assessment, the assessor’s quality assurance process should have picked this up in the first instance. As a fallback, the responsible person should have noticed when they read the document.
Institution of Fire Engineers
In response to a number of Parliamentary questions, Housing Minister Chris Pincher confirmed there were 291 Chartered and Incorporated Engineer members of the IFE.
This number was later revised down to 212.
Source: Inside Housing 23.04.2021
This number is vital because these engineers are the only valid signatories of B graded EWS1 forms. However, this number is woefully inadequate. We recently completed a validation exercise of the IFE Membership from their publicly available data. We were only able to identify 93 engineers. 13 of whom were active in EWS1, 18 were inactive and 62 did not respond or we did not have contact details.
At the time of our audit, 36% of the IFE Chartered and Incorporated Engineers that were listed on their publicly available professionals spreadsheet were not listed on their more readily accessible online member directory.
In order to restore trust in the ‘system’, it is essential that all professional institutions provide reliable, robust and accessible data to policymakers, members and the public.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
MHCLG are distributors of a large amount of information. Despite being a Government department this information is not always accurate.
The first example is the number of apartment blocks in England that fall into the 0-11m height category. In a recent freedom of information response, they confirmed the number of apartments at this height to be in a range from 1.101 million to 2.091 million. That’s nearly a 1 million block variance!
Follow-up analysis that we have conducted cannot reconcile any of these numbers, yet this is what our Government are using to create policy.
The second example is an MHCLG email sent to over 12,000 EWS1 petition signatories this morning. The email states that “Buildings cannot ‘fail’ an EWS1 assessment.” This is a statement that most Residents, Insurers and Lenders would disagree with, based on real-world experience.
In addition, the EWS1 Form (for a B2 FAIL grade) states:
Whilst on the subject of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, it is interesting that a Google search of EWS1 Form Download returns two different versions of the EWS1 Form. The discontinued form and the current one.
There are so many issues with ‘facts’ and EWS1 but here are a couple that came to light this week:
Firstly, survey companies have made assumptions that are not reconciled with physical evidence or detailed design and construction records.
This example from the Romford Recorder is a good example of lack of due regard to verifiable facts. It led a block to almost spend £2m on works that were not necessary.
Secondly, this morning I received this update message from a resident, which clearly speaks to similar concerns.
I could go on with dozens more examples of inaccuracies, inability to count, or, in some cases, tell the truth in relation to the ongoing Building Safety Crisis. The only way to turn this around in my view is to be cynical and ask for evidence wherever possible.
The Building Safety Crisis was caused by widespread regulatory failure over decades. Too few people have taken the time out to check facts and ask tough questions. Despite being 4 years post-Grenfell, this complacent culture remains from top to bottom. This has to change.
“Show me the evidence. If you don’t provide evidence, it cannot be trusted”