Grenfell study finds bad procurement standards foster bad behaviour

The final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has concluded…...

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The final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has concluded that poor procurement practices, as exemplified in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, can instil unacceptable behaviour in construction projects.

Ethical supply chain management has risen to the fore in the assessment of the Grenfell disaster, which resulted in 72 deaths and left hundreds more without a home.

Procurement, the report states, “sets the tone” for the relationship between stakeholders and supply chain partners including contractors, subcontractors, designers and clients. It continues: “The procurement process kick-starts the behaviours that we then see throughout design, construction, occupation and maintenance.

“Issues at this stage, for example inadequate specifications, focus on low cost or adversarial contracting, can make it difficult (and most likely, more expensive) to produce a safe building.”

The report identified the failures across the built environment sector which played a part in the inferno that engulfed the tower block last year. In particular, the report emphasised that the use of external cladding which fell short of fire resistance standards was the primary reason for the ferocious speed of the blaze.

Procurement practices took centre stage in the report, which emphasised the duty of buyers to ensure that ethically sound behaviours span the entire supply chain. Safety, it insists, should be a primary consideration from the moment tenders are invited, and tender reviews must include safety tests as a core issue for assessment.

While interpreting spend analytics and securing reasonable cost reductions are part of the bread and butter of any procurement professional’s work, the report found that when large contractors operate with low margins. This leads to a temptation to push the technical risks on to their subcontractors, who may lack the knowledge and resources to reduce the risks appropriately.

Best value, not lowest cost, should be the focus, the report maintains. Amongst its recommendations are a new regulatory framework for fire safety in high-rise residential constructions, improved product traceability and an improved testing regime for building methods and materials.

Ed Cross

Ed founded Odesma in 2014 with the explicit intent of creating a new kind of procurement consultancy founded entirely on cloud principles. Deploying best-of-breed subject matter experts alongside the best on demand technology to deliver rapid and effective change for customers.

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