Covid-19 response ‘proves construction industry can change’


DAME Judith Hackitt has said the way the construction industry has responded to the Covid-19 challenge shows it is capable of making the necessary changes to improve building safety and quality.

The chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, said the sector had demonstrated it was ‘capable of massive change at pace’ and had been able to abandon old practices ‘without compromising safety or quality’.

Dame Judith was speaking as the guest presenter on the latest Covid-19 update webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). She urged the industry to emulate the methods used to deliver projects for the NHS and other essential services where ‘collaboration and co-operation replaced fragmentation and adversarial behaviour’.

“Some people have stood up to be counted and are doing the right thing, but not nearly enough…if you have continued building in the same old way you will be held accountable,” she told the webinar chaired by BESA chief executive David Frise.

Dame Judith added that the industry should be seeking to regain public trust after Grenfell and that she was optimistic about the future because there was a ‘groundswell of opinion that the industry needed to change, which is making my job easier’.

“Some companies are already changing….others are waiting to have their collar felt by the gegulator…but it is the best companies who are already getting on with it,” she explained.

“A lot of people simply don’t properly understand some of the features of buildings. There are people who cut corners blatantly to save money because they can get away with it, but others simply lack competence. Sprinklers are no use at all if they are not installed properly.”