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Draft Building Safety Bill

The Draft Building Safety Bill was published just before the summer parliamentary recess, setting the stage for the most fundamental reform of the Building Regulations relating to the construction and operation of buildings in England for at least two generations. There should be no doubt that this is going to lead to radical change for us all.

Download Draft Building Safety Bill (3MB PDF)

Changes have already been made to both the Building Regulations and the associated statutory guidance to restrict the use of combustible materials in high rise buildings. There is now considerably more scrutiny of the fire performance of products specified for all new buildings and major refurbishments. And there is widespread disruption of the housing market due to the blanket application by the insurance and finance industries of enhanced scrutiny intended only for buildings over 6 storeys high.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of the Building Regulations and Fire Safety made 52 recommendations for changes to both the regulations and the way the industry operates. It called for a change of culture and an end to what she called the “race to the bottom” that drives down standards, prices and any sense of personal responsibility.

The Draft Building Safety Bill is a draft Act of Parliament which has been published as a draft Bill for scrutiny by parliament, in this instance through the Commons Select Committee for Housing, Communities and Local Government. It amends significant elements of the Building Act 1984 as well as creating a new national Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

Council and indeed all CIBSE members should be absolutely clear that the new BSR will be responsible not just for buildings over six storeys or 18m high containing residential units, but is being established to provide stronger oversight of the safety and performance of all buildings. The draft Bill also underpins a brand new regime for statutory management of the safety of all occupied high rise residential buildings, covering the design, construction and operation of all buildings in scope, both new and existing, managed by the new Regulator.

The Bill heralds significant and radical change for the building control profession. As recommended in the recent ‘Future of building control’ report, it contains enabling provisions for independent oversight, standards setting and codes of conduct for all individual building control professionals and the organisations that employ them, whether in the public or private sectors, with statutory registration of those professionals to protect the public interest and drive further improvements in competence in the building control profession. And the Bill provides for the BSR directly to manage the building control function for buildings in scope.

Not only building control professionals but all those working on high rise residential buildings will be required to demonstrate and maintain competence. New statutory roles and responsibilities are created for an Accountable Person and a Building Safety Manager covering the operation of residential buildings in scope. They must prepare and maintain safety cases for those buildings, including those already built and occupied, for regular scrutiny by the BSR. Failure to do so will be a crime by the Accountable Person.

The Bill enables the creation of the new Construction Products regulator, to work alongside the Building Safety Regulator to oversee the system of product testing and certification. Outside the EU, government has greater freedom to decide what products to accept on the UK market.

One statutory function of the new regulator is to “facilitate improvement in the competence of industry and of building inspectors”. A new industry competence committee. Section 6 of the Draft Bill requires the regulator to give appropriate “assistance and encouragement” to those in the industry or members of a profession to improve their competence.

The new committee will be given responsibility for monitoring industry competence and advising the regulator and the industry on competence. It will “facilitate persons in the industry to improve industry competence” and will also have a role to advise the public on how to identify competence.

The Draft Bill will establish new statutory roles for design, construction and operation of higher risk buildings, which may be filled by individuals or organisations. The regulator may prescribe competence requirements for the designer or the contractor and impose duties on those appointing them to ensure that they really are competent. An Approved Document is proposed to support these requirements and clients will be required to signify that they have assessed and are content with the competence of the principal designer and contractor.

To support these new requirements the British Standards Institution (BSI) is developing new standards on industry competence. An ‘overarching framework’ for competence is being developed to define the overall requirements for competence frameworks in the built environment sector. It is particularly aimed at the competence of those involved with higher risk buildings as defined within the legislation – which as noted above is likely to expand over time. It specifies core characteristics to be included in profession-specific competence schemes and so it is very relevant to CIBSE, the Engineering Council or any other relevant body looking to develop or achieve recognition for a relevant competence framework.

CIBSE will be responding to the draft and welcomes contributions to the comments from members and the public. If there is any aspect of the draft which you think is unclear, or could be improved please use the form on the consultation page to let us know. Constructive suggestions to improve the wording are strongly encouraged. To meet the BSI deadline for comment we need responses by 13th October to allow comments to be collated and submitted.  The Technical and Membership Teams are working closely together with senior members to develop the CIBSE response.