Reflections from the Future of Building Safety Conference – Anna Sargeant, Exec Director of Assets & Investment at THCH
Good building safety resident engagement requires housing associations to just generally do better. It's important understand that what makes people feel safe extends beyond fire safety and focuses more on staff visibility, consistent maintenance, and being involved in decisions.
Recently, I was invited to the ‘Future of Building Safety Conference’ hosted by Harmony Fire. Dame Judith Hackitt joined as keynote speaker and asked us to reflect on the reasons we were there – a reflection inevitably tied to the tragic events of Grenfell Tower. For me, it was the ongoing need for extensive reform and a cultural shift in residential construction and building management.
Dame Judith's message: "Don't wait to be told; take responsibility” reflects our recent approach to risk assessment. Our Building Safety strategy has been fundamental in this journey, particularly in prioritising remediation efforts, beginning with our highest priority buildings.
Our progress in remediation at THCH is important, especially considering the previously unclear policy framework.
For us, risk management is key focus. Organisations need full control over building management and any remediation works. Having multiple lines of defence is something THCH have ensured from the outset. We’ve invested around £10 million in enhancing building compartmentation and installing advanced safety measures, like heat sensors.
Our approach stresses the importance of a proportionate response; safety solutions should not compromise the business's viability. Over recent years, THCH has prioritised safety, sometimes even over other investment areas. However, we're now at a stage in our remediation programme where we can allocate £12 million over the next two years towards other building investments, like new kitchens, bathrooms, and compliance needs.
Embracing technology has been another step forward for us. We've partnered with Altair and CADline to develop our building safety cases, enabling real-time reporting on compliance in all buildings. We’ve enhanced our ability to manage and monitor safety by creating 3D images of all our high-rise buildings.
The principles of safety in high-rise buildings should be a standard for all homes. At THCH, we're committed to this journey, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our residents, and continually learning and adapting our strategies for a safer future.