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Thomas Ashton Institute for Risk and Regulatory Research

Building Safety Network

In the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, HM Government commissioned Dame Judith Hackitt FREng to undertake an ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.’ Her review uncovered systemic failings that undermined the safety of people living in high-rise residential buildings across the country.

The new Building Safety Act (2022) goes some way to providing a legislative framework for addressing the failures identified in the Hackitt Report, yet an integrated and nuanced research approach to underpin its implementation is still underdeveloped.

man, woman and a child looking at a tall block of flats being developed

The urgent need for regulatory ‘reform,’ transformation in central government policy-making in the context of housing and improvement of the Building Regulations are widely accepted as necessary actions following the tragic events leading up to Grenfell. Minister Gove’s statement on 28/01/22 reflects this in his assertion that “faulty and ambiguous (guidance and regulations) allowed unscrupulous people to exploit a broken system.”

Building on interdisciplinary research from The University of Manchester's expertise in housing safety, the social science of infrastructure and housing, and research on standards and policy, the goal of the Building Safety Network (BSN) is to create a community of scholars, industry experts, officials and representative bodies who together will help inform the future of building safety policy and practice through internationally excellent co-produced research.

Pump-priming funding from The University of Manchester sought to initiate a cross-faculty, interdisciplinary Building Safety Network (BSN) with the aim of developing a UKRI cross-council funding bid to fully establish the network on a national scale.

Network aims

The programme of activity stimulated by the network will re-energise attempts to tackle entrenched problems within a sector that is scarred by the tragedy at Grenfell and stymied by fragmented relationships between designers, constructors, building owners, managers, and residents. The network’s activities will be set within a genuinely transdisciplinary environment – bridging the expertise of the School of Engineering and the School of Social Sciences with the needs of building residents. The BSN will create a community of UK-based expertise, engaging experts from fields ranging from high-risk safety engineering to anthropology of the built environment.

It aims to amplify interdisciplinary research approaches to building safety and promote knowledge exchange across boundaries to address under-explored dimensions of risk, trust, quality, procurement, management, and transparency.

Our work

The network will explore the relevant explicit or implied changes and requirements resulting from the Building Safety Act 2022; this may include consideration of the implicit ‘burdens’ or ‘needs’ placed on building residents and the role of the building safety manager and the accountable person in assuring golden thread workflows. Some of these measures will be directly legislated for in the Act, while in other areas, powers for the Government and/or Building Safety Regulator to take forward detailed requirements through secondary legislation may emerge. We are also interested in the procedures for accessing the Housing Ombudsman – and the perceived legitimacy of this body from the perspectives of trust and independence. We aim to consider these regulatory frameworks within a larger landscape of resident empowerment, the intersection of housing politics and industry, and wider questions of public trust.

Such activities require joined-up and comprehensive research approaches, linking critically engaged social research that engages with a shifting political and socio-economic landscape with technical questions of structural integrity, material properties, analysis of procurement and construction process, and practice-orientated methodologies that ensure research leads to meaningful change in the sector.


This research/work has been supported by The University of Manchester Research Institute (UMRI) Pump-Priming Programme.

Project team

The challenges we have identified transcend the engineering, physical and social sciences and cannot be addressed in the absence of a genuinely inter-disciplinary approach. The research team reflects the interdisciplinary challenge.

Get involved

If you would like to be a part of the Building Safety Network, please complete this short form: Building Safety Network