BBA technical director Bill Hewlet

After the Grenfell Tower fire exposed inadequacies in the process of product certification, the British Board of Agrément (BBA) came up with a plan.

BBA’s answer to the problems identified was to create Agrément Plus as a more rigorous (and thus more expensive) accreditation process specifically for products to be used in residential tower blocks (high risk residential buildings, or HRRBs in the jargon).

The BBA kitemark shows that products have received third party certification of meeting relevant norms and standards. Agrément Plus would have introduced new ‘super kit’. This regime would have seen products with an Agrément Plus certificate attested as fit for use in HRRBs whereas products with just an Agrément certificate would not be.

The BBA launched a consultation on this plan in March but found that the overarching view of consultees was that a two-tier ‘Agrément’ and ‘Agrément Plus’ approach was not an appropriate way forward.

“The preference was that the format of the Agrément certificates should be developed so that fitness (or lack of it) for use in HRRBs is clearly identified,” said BBA technical director Bill Hewlett. “We feel a modular style of certificate can achieve this.”

The BBA said that its next step was likely to be setting up an industry liaison group of certificate users to talk about what to do now.

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BBA’s 15-week consultation on Agrément Plus collected more than 10,000 views from architects, specifiers, warranty providers, insurers, construction managers, funders, building control officers and industry regulators.

Bill Hewlett said that he was surprised by the level of concerns expressed about poor workmanship and over-enthusiastic cost cutting, and the threat they pose to building quality and safety.

“Risks from poor workmanship and unchecked value engineering were on our radar to investigate,” he said. “But the strength of feeling about them came as a surprise and is an important finding.”

He added: “These questions of workmanship control and uncontrolled value engineering warrant industry leadership attention, and clearly a focus on domestic RMI [repair, maintenance and improvement] is called for.”

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