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Building Safety Bill nears the final stages of parliamentary journey
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Building Safety Bill nears the final stages of parliamentary journey

News
23 Mar 22
CIBSE

The Building Safety Bill introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on Building Regulations and Fire Safety, is now at the report stage in the House of Lords and nearing the final stages of its parliamentary journey.

The Bill is the most fundamental reform of regulation across the construction and residential property sectors in living memory.

The Bill

  • Creates a Building Safety Regulator, responsible for the regulation of ALL buildings, with new statutory roles for designers and contractors on all projects.
  • Will strengthen the whole building control system, with the new Regulator taking responsibility for professional standards and registration for all building control officers.
  • Will introduce a comprehensive new set of regulations for the competence of all those involved in the design and construction process (for all works and not just for higher risk buildings).
  • Creates an entirely new and more rigorous regime for prescribed classes of buildings, with new planning and building control gateways, building safety managers, safety cases and a statutory golden thread of information, all linked to formal certification of the building for fitness to occupy.

CIBSE is totally committed to working with our members, firms that employ them, government and industry bodies to deliver a system of building legislation that delivers safe and sustainable buildings.

We have learned much about our building stock over the past five years and how it needs interventions to make it safer, healthier and lower carbon. We now need to apply those lessons to the way that we manage our buildings as well as how they are refurbished and built.

The Bill covers all building work

It is vital that everyone in the construction, building or property sectors understands that the Bill and the new Regulator cover all building works. They are simply not just for “high rise residential” buildings. The Bill addresses how we design, build and renovate all our buildings in future. It introduces changes to the Building Act, Architects Act and Building Regulations that apply across the board and in many cases have been needed for years.

The more robust safety regime will take a proportionate, risk-based approach to all building work, including remediation. It will introduce new requirements for the competence of those who design and build as well as for operators of higher risk residential buildings. The new regime will be enforced by HSE and is backed by criminal sanctions.

A key area for CIBSE is the competence of designers and contractors, with new dutyholder roles for principal designers and contractors. These requirements go well beyond CDM Regulations (2015) – they are not just a restatement of CDM but significant additional duties that apply to anyone undertaking building work. They will cover all building work that requires a building notice or deposit of plans, placing statutory duties on clients to satisfy themselves that those they employ are competent, individually and organisationally, to undertake the work. The draft regulations are available, along with a factsheet on the proposals for industry competence. For further information see the duty holder regulations on the CIBSE website.

The Bill will reform the building control system and includes stronger regulatory powers for construction products with a new market surveillance and enforcement regime led by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

An overview of the Bill

The Bill currently runs to 161 sections with 9 additional schedules. It has 6 parts, with Part 1 a singles section overview. Part 2 covers the new Regulator, Part 3 makes many amendments to the Building Act 1984. Part 4 creates the new regime for higher risk buildings. Part 5 makes various provisions relating to safety and standards, including the establishment of a new homes ombudsman scheme and for complaints to the housing association. There are provisions for construction product standards, as well as changes to the Architects Act. Whilst the Bill applies in full to England, the changes to the Building Act enable Welsh Ministers to change the secondary regulations in Wales as a result and the provisions for architects and construction products apply to the whole of the UK.

Scope of the Bill

There is widespread confusion about the scope of the Bill. As outlined above, the Bill applies to all building work, as defined in Regulation 3 (1) of the Building Regulations 2010. That means any work that needs to be notified to a building control body. There are no exceptions.

The Bill also creates a completely new and stricter regime of controls for buildings of prescribed types or classes. The new regime applies to buildings at least 18 metres in height or with at least 7 storeys and at least two residential units during design, construction and operation. It also applies to care homes and hospitals meeting the same height threshold during design and construction, but not during occupation.

The term “buildings in scope” has been adopted as a convenient shorthand for “buildings in scope of the stricter regime for construction, operation, safety cases, the golden thread of information and certification to occupy”. Whilst this is understandable, it appears to have led very many people to conclude that buildings not in scope of the stricter regime – initially some 12,500 residential buildings, as well as care homes and hospitals – are not in scope of the Bill.

This is plain wrong. The Bill and the new overall regime will apply to all building work on any kind of building of any height, tenure or purpose. It’s vital that industry gets to grips with this.

The new more stringent regime places legal responsibilities on those who commission building work, participate in the design and construction process and those who are responsible for managing structural and fire safety in higher-risk buildings when they are occupied. These people will be called dutyholders during design and construction, and the accountable person when the building is occupied. When a building is refurbished this may involve both dutyholders and an Accountable Person as many buildings remain occupied during refurbishment.

There are also provisions to impose requirements relating to the competence of anyone working on a building. The Bill will allow the Regulator “to impose duties on persons making appointments in relation to building regulations to ensure that those they appoint meet the competence requirements”. The stated aim is to “ensure everyone doing design or building work is competent to carry out that work in line with building regulations”. There will be a new Approved Document, providing statutory guidance. There are draft regulations available from the Building Safety website setting out the current proposals – these will be subject to further consultation and scrutiny once the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law.

CIBSE has been at the forefront of the industry response to the tragic events at Grenfell Tower on the night of 14th June 2017 and has worked closely with the government and the industry on the response to the tragedy. As the formal legislative process moves forward and changes to the building regulatory regime begin to take effect, CIBSE will continue to respond to the changes and prepare for the new regulatory regime. We must all continue to contribute to the overall objective of making our built environment a safer place to live or work in, and to do everything we reasonably can to prevent the events of that night ever being repeated.

Further Reading

Press Notice in full can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-regulator-at-heart-of-building-safety-overhaul
The Building Safety Bill can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/building-safety-bill
Building safety factsheets, to provide more information about the provisions in the Building Safety Bill and how they will be implemented can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-factsheets
Government has also published its response to the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-government-response-to-pre-legislative-scrutiny-by-the-select-committee