I courage you to read this and think about how you or your business might need to prepare for what’s coming.
The Building Safety Bill is creeping closer to Royal Assent, with the House of Commons due to consider the amendments made to the Bill in coming weeks. It is expected to become law in 2023.
The bill is the result of recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report following the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people. The aim of the bill is to help people be and feel safer in their homes. It will change the way buildings are designed, constructed, and managed. Key areas of focus are:
The safety and standards of ALL buildings, with specific focus on assuring the safety of higher-risk buildings
Improving the competence of those responsible for overseeing, managing, and undertaking works to higher-risk buildings
Ensuring clearer standards and guidance
Putting residents at the heart of a new system of building safety
The bill will bring about a new role - the Building Safety Regulator (The “Regulator”). This new role will be responsible for building control of higher-risk buildings, via a three-stage gateway system covering planning, completion and occupation phases of a development.
In case you didn’t spot point 1 above, the new requirements of the Building Safety Bill do not just apply to higher-risk buildings. Parts of the bill will have implications for ALL buildings as it will make the Regulator responsible for the performance of the building control sector (setting standards and ensuring they are met).
Buildings in England over 18 metres high or at least seven storeys, which contain at least two residential units. The design, refurbishment and construction elements of the bill also apply to care homes and hospitals meeting the height threshold.
Building Safety Regulator (The “Regulator”)
The new Regulator will have three primary functions:
Oversee the safety and performance system for ALL buildings: as already noted, this will be through overseeing the performance of building control bodies across the public and private sectors, and by understanding and advising on existing and emerging building standards and safety risks.
Encourage increased competence by setting the direction of an industry-led competence committee and establishing competence requirements for registration of building control professionals.
Lead the implementation of the new regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings.
Another new role created by the bill is the Accountable Person (think building owner, freeholder, or management company) who will have an ongoing duty to assess building safety risks during occupation and provide a ‘Safety Case Report’.
A Safety Case Report will demonstrate how building safety risks are being identified, mitigated, and managed on an ongoing basis, plus how resident safety is ensured. It should be updated when necessary and submitted to the Regulator for assessment.
Initial drafting included provision requiring the Accountable Person to appoint a Building Safety Manager to support in the planning, managing, and monitoring of the various tasks necessary to ensure that Accountable Persons’ duties are complied with. Recent readings of the amendments in the House of Lords revealed that the Building Safety Manager now appears omitted, with the onus falling solely to the Accountable Persons to ensure that they are compliant. Michael Gove explained that scrapping compulsory Building Safety Managers would help avoid unnecessary costs. This is a good example of how you should read this piece - it is what we think will become law based on current drafting, but some details may change through the process.
Dutyholders and CDM
The new dutyholders (for building regulations) will be the same as CDM (for health and safety). I don’t think it is expected that there are duplicate dutyholders, but the Client will need to ensure they all have the right levels of competence - if not, then you could have one PD for CDM and another for building regulations, for example. Here are the dutyholders:
Client (design & construction), Accountable Person (occupation)
Gateway 1 - Planning Stage (in force now): Applicants need to demonstrate that fire safety matters have been taken into account. Gateway 1 came into force on 1 August 2021, via an amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act. It requires fire safety matters to be incorporated into the planning stage for higher-risk buildings, with The HSE now a statutory consultee - Fire Statements are required when seeking planning approval.
Gateway 2 - Before Construction (not yet in force): Before construction can commence, a building control approval application must be submitted to the Regulator.
Gateway 3 - Before Occupation (not yet in force): Gateway 3 will provide assurance that the building is safe for occupation. A Completion Certificate application with as-built plans and key building information, together with signed declarations of compliance with the Building Regulations must be submitted to the Regulator. Confirmation of the "Golden Thread information" will also be required.
Essentially this is all the information about a building that enables it to be kept safe. This will be held digitally and the information must be kept up to date and maintained. The Client (woking with other Duty Holders) is responsible for the Golden Thread. Here’s a factsheet which is quite useful.
Following Royal Assent (expected around mid-2022) a number of preparatory changes will come into force within the first 12 months. At 12-18 months, the bulk of the new provisions in the Bill will come into force including Gateways 2 and 3, Golden Thread information and new Committees within the Building Safety Regulator.
If it hasn’t already sunk in from this brief explanation, you’d be well placed to get ahead of this so that you’re prepared for when it has come into force.
Whilst you can search the web and find lots of information on this topic, here’s where to go for the official stuff.