The Building Safety Act is expected to take shape over the next twelve months. David Barnes, policy and public affairs manager at the Chartered Institute of Building, says preparation among all stakeholders is key to its smooth implementation.
The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent on 27 April 2022, introducing significant changes to the way in which building safety is regulated, with major consequences for developers, owners, landlords and tenants of residential buildings. The Act was the Government’s legislative response to the Grenfell fire tragedy, although the Grenfell Tower Inquiry continues.
Despite the legislation being in force, a great deal of secondary legislation is still required to give the Act teeth and much of this is set to be debated and implemented in 2023.
Most recently, England’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in its remit as the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR), will require building control professionals and private sector building control organisations to register with BSR to perform building control work in England. A consultation on the Building Inspector Competence Framework closed on 9 December 2022 and a similar consultation is currently open in Wales until 5 January 2023.
Construction product manufacturers will also be regulated under a National Regulator for Construction Products (NRCP) which will have the power to remove products from the market that are deemed as a significant safety risk as well as prosecute companies that do not follow the rules and regulations.
In addition to the establishment of the BSR and NRCP, the other major change at occupational phase is the creation of the Accountable Person (AP) role. This will be the organisation or person who owns or has responsibility for the building. It may also be the organisation or person (such as a management company) who is responsible for maintaining the common parts of a building, such as corridors, entrances, or lobbies.
The AP will have an ongoing duty to assess and prevent a building safety risk happening and, in the event of there being more than one AP, the principal accountable person (PAP) must provide a ‘safety case report’, demonstrating how risks are being identified, mitigated and managed on an ongoing basis.
An AP must register all their existing High-Risk Buildings (HRBs) with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) between April and October 2023. It is an offence if a building is occupied but not registered after October 2023. Further information on the new roles and responsibilities in England can be found on the HSE website here.
Although secondary legislation is still in development, in October 2022, the first enforcement action was taken by the Government against a block owner who failed to carry out necessary cladding works. This should be seen as a warning to the industry that the Act is being enforced and the HSE has been clear in communicating to the sector to prepare now and play its part in making buildings safer, regardless of if you are working on HRBs or not.
As the building safety programme develops, competence of all who provide services and products throughout the lifecycle of a building will be central. In Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety from May 2018, she described the “lack of a coherent approach to competence levels and experience required – or professional qualifications where these may be necessary – and how these qualifications and experience should be evidenced so that they are clearly understood by all those operating within the system”.
This competency challenge has long plagued the construction industry and there is an increasing need for individuals and companies to showcase evidence that they are competent to deliver safe and high-quality built assets.
The Chartered Institute of Building, like many other professional bodies, is reviewing the implications of the Building Safety Act on the Rules and Regulations of Professional Competence and Conduct, particularly in relation to the new duty holder roles. In addition, we have also made amendments to our Rules and Regulations and implemented new mandatory Continuing Professional Development as a condition of individual and company membership.
Next year will be a significant 12 months for building safety with far-reaching impact and we should all be prepared to change our own policies and processes to comply. Building safety should not be viewed as further regulation for the sake of regulation, but as an opportunity to improve the reputation of the construction industry and deliver the best quality product possible.