Universities forced to address the issue of fire safety full on
Following the Grenfell tragedy and the recent student accommodation fire in Bolton, the pressure is on for Universities to ensure that their whole estate is “fully fire safe”.
This doesn’t just require an extensive review of University owned and managed premises, but also a review of accommodation, teaching space and research facilities owned or operated by private providers and partners.
Leaving aside the complex legal matrix (for example around current vs historic building regulations, fire safety standards, duties of care, and corporate manslaughter), Universities will now be forced to address the issue of fire safety full on. The competition for students is intense, and the market will not lightly tolerate those organizations that that do not address such a fundamental issue immediately.
There is no silver bullet not least because the rapid uptake in new construction technology and the use of modern building materials have contributed significantly to a lack of understanding of life cycle costs and overall fire safety in relation to new and refurbished buildings.
The costs for some Universities are going to be huge, and whilst practical strategies to mitigate risk are essential, it will also be necessary to understand where costs can be passed on or recovered – and that can only come from a thorough legal review of property owning structures and relationships with development partners.