Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 7, 2021

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Building Safety Bill

Latest on the Building Safety Bill – Set to introduce the “biggest changes to building safety regulation in a generation”

The Building Safety Bill, which was first announced in draft form in July 2020, has been published today (Monday 5th July) and outlined by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick as the next “key step in an extensive overhaul to building safety legislation”. The reforms are set to create “lasting generational change and a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained”, affirms the UK Government.   

BuildingSafety-20It is designed to give residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughen sanctions against those who threaten their safety, while a Building Safety Regulator will oversee the new regime and be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above (or of seven storeys or more) are effectively managed and resolved.

This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.

These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, according to the Government, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.

Read the responses from the fire safety industry to the Building Safety Bill’s introduction, here. 

The latest on the Building Safety Bill

The Bill is currently at Committee stage in the House of Commons, where it’s proposals are under detailed consideration. This is expected to finish on or before 26th October 2021, where it will then go back to the Commons for Report and a Third Reading.

The Bill is expected to become law, assuming there are no major delays, sometime early in 2022, and will apply to both current and future buildings deemed to be ‘high-risk’.

What will the Building Safety Regulator do?

The new Building Safety Regulator will be at the heart of the reforms. Housed in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it will be responsible for overseeing the “safety and performance of all buildings”.

The three broad functions of the Building Safety Regulator will be to:

  • “Implement the new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings”
  • “Oversee the safety and performance of all buildings”
  • “Assist and encourage competence among the built environment industry, and registered building inspectors“

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:  “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.

“The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”

The reforms will seek to tackle bad practice head on, building on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which highlighted a need for significant cultural and regulatory change.

Under the proposals, the Government is more than doubling the amount of time, from six to fifteen years, that residents can seek compensation for sub-standard construction work. Announced shortly before the Bill’s publication, leaseholders and Labour have argued that this change is likely to bring “little relief”, due to the costly and time-consuming barriers to mount legal action, while many developers that may have fallen under the scope no longer exist for leaseholders to take action against.

The changes will apply retrospectively. This means that residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025.

These reforms also include new measures which apply to those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which make the home unliveable.

READ: ‘Collaboration will be key to implementing cultural change in building safety’ – Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings, outlines his priorities

New measures in the Building Safety Bill introduced will be said to:

  • Ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building
  • Establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed
  • Give residents in these buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety, and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously
  • Extend rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects
  • Drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come

Minister for Building and Fire Safety Lord Greenhalgh added: “The comprehensive steps we are taking today will ensure that industry and the regulatory system fully address the concerns raised in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt.

“Though the overall risk of fire across all buildings remains low, we can’t be complacent – the more robust regime will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to remediation and other safety risks.  And by increasing our measures of enforcement, we will make sure industry follows the rules – and is held to account when it doesn’t.”

The Bill will include powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime led nationally by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market that present safety risks and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety.

The Bill also contains measures to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways to meet remediation costs before passing these onto leaseholders, along with evidence that this has been done.  The Government notes this “builds upon the £5billion investment in building safety” to fund the replacement of unsafe cladding for residential buildings 18m and over in England, alongside a new levy and a tax to ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation.

Developers will also be required to join and remain members of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme, which will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. Developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman may receive additional sanctions.

Residents’ role

Following the numerous complaints from Grenfell residents that their concerns were not listened to before the events of June 2017, the Bill is also making greater provisions for improved communication. Building Safety Managers will have to “listen and respond to residents’ concerns”, while occupants will also have access to safety information regarding their building.

Residents will be entitled to receive key information about the safety measures in place with new rights to request access to detailed information where appropriate. The Building Safety Manager will be required to “proactively engage” and communicate with residents to allow them to stay informed and participate in decision-making about the safety of their building. Where a complaint or concern cannot satisfactorily be resolved by the Building Safety Manager, the resident will be able to go directly to the Building Safety Regulator.

As well as having new rights, residents will have a general duty to cooperate with the Building Safety Manager and avoid actions that could pose a threat to the fire and structural safety of the building. Where cooperation is not forthcoming, the Building Safety Manager will be able to enforce residents’ responsibilities where there is a risk to the safety of other residents.

Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Dame Judith Hackitt said:  “I am delighted that we have reached this important milestone for the Building Safety Bill. It is vital that we focus on getting the system right for the future and set new standards for building safety.

“Residents and other stakeholders need to have their confidence in high rise buildings restored and those who undertake such projects must be held to account for delivering safe buildings.”

Who will the Building Safety Bill apply to?

The provisions set out in the Bill will apply to building owners and the built environment industry. This includes those who commission building work and who participate in the design and construction process, including clients, designers and contractors.

The Bill creates powers to introduce new design and construction requirements that apply to high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, and care homes of at least 18 metres or at least seven storeys. The Bill also introduces new occupation requirements for existing and new high-rise residential buildings of 18 metres and above (or at least seven storeys).

Those involved in the commissioning, design, construction, or refurbishment of high-rise residential and other in scope buildings will have new formal responsibilities to comply with building regulations. It will also aim to provide residents of those buildings within scope with greater powers and means of communication to building owners.

Powers within the Building Safety Bill will be used to make regulations that place duties on those who procure, plan, manage and undertake building work. These regulations will be made using secondary legislation and will be subject to consultation once the Building Safety Bill has gained Royal Assent.

The Government has published several factsheets to help those roles that will be affected by the Bill understand what may change, available here.

How long will the Building Safety Bill take to become law?

In the UK, a Bill does not become law until it has received Royal Assent, which follows approval from both the House of Commons and House of Lords after scrutiny.

It is expected that the Building Safety Bill will receive Royal Assent after somewhere between nine and 12 months from its introduction (July 2021).

Following this, the various provisions are expected to come into force within two to 18 months after Royal Assent, dependent on the level of work involved. Some key expected timelines for fire safety professionals to be aware of (dates are related to the time after the Bill achieves Royal Assent) include:

  • Changes made to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – Within 6-12 months
  • Additional powers for the regulation of construction products – Within 6-12 months
  • Building Advisory Committee and Industry Competence Committee established within the Building Safety Regulator (12-18 months)
  • Mandatory registration of Building Inspectors, Building Control Approvers, Occurrence Reporting and registration of occupied high-rise residential buildings (12-18 months)
  • New duties on the accountable person to manage building safety risks (12-18 months)
  • Golden threat of information (12-18 months)

The Government has published a full transition plan for the Bill, here. 

Read the full 218-page Building Safety Bill, here.

The Bill is one of several pieces of legislation and guidance being implemented by the UK Government to improve building safety, and follows the publication of the Fire Safety Act earlier in 2021. Follow the latest news and updates, below.

Competence framework PAS 8673 for new role of building safety managers on track for publication

A guide to the new specification for the competence of building safety managers, PAS 8673, which is set to be published in December.

Fire industry responds to the Building Safety Bill

We round up the opinions and comments from several leading industry bodies and stakeholders on the Building Safety Bill.

Building industry must change its safety culture by adopting ‘golden thread’ principles says building regulations committee

The BRAC believes industry needs to change its culture and embrace digital information to rise to the challenges of improved building safety.

Central register launched for building safety managers

A new central register and a certification scheme have been launched for building safety managers – the Building Safety Alliance.

Calls for building safety professionals to test new regulatory compliance tools

UL is calling for housing providers, facilities managers and social landlord ‘early adopters’ to test two new compliance products in the UK.

Building Safety Managers – the future for compliance?

Why defining the future role of Building Safety Managers is imperative to improve the standards of building management.

Government appoints experts to review testing system for construction products

Robert Jenrick has announced the appointment of two experts to lead the independent review of the system for testing construction products.

New Chief Inspector of Buildings appointed to lead Building Safety Regulator

Peter Baker has been appointed to the new Chief Inspector of Buildings role, which will establish and lead the new Building Safety Regulator.

National construction products regulator established to ‘build homes safer’ following Grenfell revelations

A new national construction products regulator was announced by UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on 19 January 2021.

Fire Safety in 2020 Annual Report - A year of challenges and change

Download the Fire Safety in 2020 eBook, as IFSEC Global and FIREX International keep you up to date with the biggest stories of the year, including new legislation, Grenfell Tower Inquiry revelations and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected professionals in the sector.

The eBook also features a nine-point guide to firestopping, an exclusive foreword from the Fire Industry Association's Ian Moore, and a round-up of the biggest news and prosecution stories of the year.

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