July 26, 2023


Whitepaper: Enhancing security, resilience and efficiency across a range of industries

Building safety

Changes to building regulations and fire safety: An overview

Dame Judith Hackitt’s conclusion that “the whole system of regulation… is not fit for purpose” within her review of building regulations and fire safety was sobering.

The independent report – commissioned following the Grenfell tragedy – found that major reform was required, with new obligations introduced since its release being placed on those involved in the construction or ongoing management of a building.

Speaking at FIREX 2023 on Thursday 18 May, Natalie Sellar and Adrian Mansbridge of law firm Addleshaw Goddard outlined how the Fire Safety Act (FSA) and the Building Safety Act (BSA) will fundamentally change the regulatory landscape. Lucy Booker reports.  

Why are we here?


Natalie Sellar and Adrian Mansbridge explaining the latest changes to building and fire safety legislation at FIREX 2023

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has resulted in substantial reforms to the construction and management of high-rise residential buildings, as Adrian Mansbridge explained: “There have been over 50 recommendations – with all of which accepted in their entirety,” he said.

Under the Building Safety Act, we will see changes to the day-to-day fire safety rules which “puts the responsibility on certain persons to take further measures,” said Mansbridge.

Importantly, anyone relying on managing agents must make sure they’re fully compliant as the definition of a ‘responsible person’ won’t automatically be passed to a contracted third party.

New obligations

The changes from the Fire Safety Act include a tightening of the requirements for the structure and external walls of buildings – including cladding, balconies and windows. Entrance doors to individual flats opening into common areas are also included.

These provisions from the FSA are already in force, and have been since May 2022.

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, which came into force January 2023, have also outlined new obligations. Different rules apply depending on the size of the building. For example, additional floorplans need to be provided to the fire and rescue services for buildings over 18 metres.

The Building Safety Act 2022 redefined the definition of a high-risk building, although there is some ambiguity within the act. Natalie Sellar explained that there is flexibility and that “the Secretary of State can amend the definition – so we do expect new buildings to be pulled into scope, as well as buildings under the 18m/7-storey threshold,” she said.

These obligations are mostly aimed at high-rise residential buildings. However, care homes and hospitals in the design and construction phase (if they meet the height requirements of a high-risk building – 18 metres or seven storeys) – are proposed to fall under this regime too.

The plan is for all the provisions from the BSA to be in force by the end of October 2023 – though further guidance and implementing regulations are still required ahead of this.

Enforcement action

The talk also gave some stark warnings about the penalties for non-compliance. For example, The Fire Safety Act, which fundamentally changed the way in which fire safety management for businesses is carried out and enforced by expanding the scope of the existing Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005, will help the fire service identify the responsible person to undertake prosecutions.

“The fines for non-compliance have risen sharply and the scope of enforcement is now broader,” explained Sellar, when detailing how the legislation will be governed.

The Building Safety Regulator

The reforms have introduced a substantial new framework, with the newly formed Building Safety Regulator (BSR) – part of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – providing independent expert building advice.

In respect of the construction phase, any changes made to the design of a building during construction will be more difficult to undertake. “HSE will be looking at whether a building is built as per the submitted design. The changes could be problematic if people are sitting idle onsite waiting for approval – which clearly has a commercial impact,” warned Mansbridge.

In addition, the new regime is proposed to include a comprehensive change approval process, including around selection of materials. “If you’re purchasing the cheapest materials for a building the regulator is pushing back,” Mansbridge outlined.

The Gateway Regime

The new Gateway Regime will be used to enable the BSR to oversee the design and construction of new higher buildings. The three parts of the regime, which will look at the planning, pre-construction and practical completion phases, will all feature specific requirements.


Credit: elxeneize/AlamyStock

For example, as part of Gateway 3, it will become necessary to complete all works – including snagging – for a building to be granted a completion certificate in advance of registration. Here, Mansbridge again warned of the practical knock-on effects of delays with the possibility of “buildings sitting idle” for periods of time, due to the proposed 12 weeks the regulator may require for approval and granting of completion certificate.

Occupation and beyond

The regulator will continue to be involved after occupation, which means there is a higher risk of significant pushback before the building can be approved. “Both client and contractor face significant changes,” said Mansbridge.

Towards the end of the seminar, delegates heard about the importance of maintaining digital records throughout a building’s lifetime. “If you’re a contractor then you’ll be asked for information aligned to the golden thread, including photographs of work,” outlined Mansbridge.

Key actions for building and fire safety professionals

Although the changes within the acts are vast and detailed, there are five high-level actions to remember when seeking to understand them:

  • Prepare and maintain the golden thread
  • Incorporate fire safety requirements into planning applications
  • Carry out due diligence on construction products
  • Submit relevant documents to BSR at various stages of construction
  • Check the competence of duty holders and be aware of your own duty holder obligations

To end the session, Mansbridge warned of heavy penalties for those who don’t take their new responsibilities seriously: “Everyone in the supply chain should be examining competence – almost all breaches carry unlimited fines,” he concluded.

Editor’s Note: This presentation was given to attendees at FIREX in London on Thursday 18 May 2023 – additional secondary legislation, regulations and guidance related to the Building Safety Act 2022 may have since been introduced and/or changed at the time of reading.

Secondary legislation updates can be found on the gov.uk website, here >>

Additional information can be found in some of the following articles:


Subscribe to the IFSEC Insider weekly newsletters

Enjoy the latest fire and security news, updates and expert opinions sent straight to your inbox with IFSEC Insider's essential weekly newsletters. Subscribe today to make sure you're never left behind by the fast-evolving industry landscape.

Sign up now!

man reading a tablet, probably the IFSEC Global newsletter

Related Topics