Speaking at the RCI Show (October 2023), Peter Johnson predicts a period of increasing costs and potential litigation for unwary contractors.  


The new Building Safety Act has been established with all good intentions, but may end up creating a more fragmented, litigious environment for developers, contractors and architects, according to Peter Johnson, founder and chairman of Vivalda Group, the UK’s largest cladding distributor.

Speaking to an audience of cladding industry experts in October, he said: “With the Act having become law in the UK, we can better judge how the legislation will work to prevent another Grenfell. And while I welcome the rapid progress and efforts of the new regulator, I fear that the age-old issues of combative attitudes to others in the supply chain, poor skill levels and a cost-down culture will resurface once again.

Peter Johnson added that he wanted to see improved skills development and recognition for the key role of the cladding installer. “I’d like to see a return to the days when words like pride, craftsmanship and quality were commonplace on building sites. The industry has sadly become too commoditised in my view – and this needs to change. The portents are not good though: the construction press recently reported a major housebuilder demanding a 10% reduction in the cost of work carried out by subbies, not only on future projects, but also existing ones.

“It must also be remembered that in the time since the Grenfell tragedy, no ‘magic bullet’ has emerged to transform the market for cladding materials. This is because there’s no need – the high specification cladding panels now used as a matter of course post-Grenfell were all widely available pre-Grenfell. The difference between then and now is ‘woe betide the developer using value engineering to obtain the cheapest materials’, a process by which Grenfell Tower along with many others ended up being clad in what one expert at the Inquiry called ‘vertically stacked petrol’.

“Yes, we do have the new Golden Thread to help record events, added to which I would like to see the return of old-school building inspectors, once known as the ‘Clerk of Works’, who really knew their subject and would take no nonsense when it came to anyone trying to pull the wool.


“Signing off a building as being safe for habitation certainly concentrates the mind. The Scottish government appear to have adopted a much more effective system whereby building inspectors are respected and heeded when they make a judgement on work in progress. This seems to be a much more effective, simple model to ensure quality. It just seems rather odd that such a proven scheme can’t be implemented south of the border.”

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Johnson advised contractors to review their terms of business, in order to defend themselves from potential claims. “I’m not saying that cladding contractors need to wrap themselves up in legal cotton wool. They simply need to be aware of the more risk averse, litigious market we are now working in.”