Hosted by Sir Ken Knight and featuring presentations from Dame Judith Hackitt and Aman Sharma, the CIBSE Facilities Management (FM) group provides an update on the implementation of the Building Safety Act.
In an event which took place at Sodexo’s London offices on 21 September 2022, Sir Ken began by reiterating the Building Safety Act as the foundation for the urgent cultural change needed to ensure better building safety.
Sir Ken emphasised that the scope of the Act and associated regulatory bodies extend to all buildings, not just those categorised as higher-risk. Importantly, residents in higher-risk buildings will also have more say in how their buildings are kept safe, with the ability to relay safety concerns to the accountable person(s), who have a legal duty to listen to them. After alluding to the role of the Building Safety Act in serving those most devastatingly affected by oversights in building safety, Sir Ken handed it over to Dame Judith Hackitt.
Dame Judith began by recognising the ongoing work driving change. This includes the development of new competency frameworks and guidance for the whole built environment industry.
About initial responses to the Building Safety Act, Dame Judith highlighted the response from the financial sector, demonstrating a need to rebuild confidence in the investment sector. There is work to be done to change perceptions and regain trust.
Concerning the new Building Safety Regulator, which sits within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Dame Judith alluded to the differences in approach that can be expected as part of the new regime. A retroactive adherence to rules will not fly, instead, the requirement will be to demonstrate how safety requirements are met before anything can be progressed.
Along with financial stakeholders, Dame Judith emphasised that the Building Safety Act is also about regaining public trust. Having strong regulations and regulators is important, but ultimately, it’s trust in those carrying out the work that will make the difference.
Appealing to building environment professionals, Dame Judith urged us to engage with the ongoing government consultations around the secondary legislation. She highlighted the vital role of industry in sharing their expertise and knowledge, influencing how these changes are adopted, in practical terms. It will not be watered down but, the industry can feedback on what they believe to be the most realistic ways to enact these vital changes.
With that in mind, Dame Judith also strongly encouraged those concerned to act now, rather than waiting for the secondary legislation. The Act applies to both future and existing buildings. There are a lot of lessons that can be learnt from the way the Regulator reacts to new buildings, regarding applying the same reforms to existing building stock.
Echoing Sir Ken’s earlier reference to requirements around resident engagement, Dame Judith praised those in local authority and the construction sector who have started work on developing robust consultation processes with residents. We must work with and listen to the Regulator to position ourselves to adopt the new requirements and competencies, beginning with open communication with residents.
Addressing FMs specifically, Dame Judith highlighted that historically, the HSE has demonstrated a proportionate approach, and she believes this also applies to what is practical and achievable within an existing building. However, the responsibility to understand what is required lies with the accountable person(s) and dutyholders. You will be required to demonstrate how you are managing safety in your building, rather than asking what is acceptable and meeting those minimum requirements.
In summary, Dame Judith identified the following key questions that those working in the building environment industry need to be able to answer.
1. Do you understand how that relationship with the Regulator is going to change and what it means to you and your organisation in terms of presenting your case to them?
2. What is your strategy in terms of improved resident engagement and ongoing communication?
3. What steps have you taken to document, report and store information relating to the safety of your buildings, ensuring it is digitised and accessible?
4. What are you doing about training your staff and understanding the required levels of competency to carry out your jobs?
5. What is your strategy regarding communication with stakeholders and your commitment to delivering improved safety?
6. Are you engaging with the secondary legislation and consultation process? This will help you to be better informed and to influence changes if you think there is something more workable.
CIBSE is totally committed to work with our members, their employers, government, including the new Building Safety Regulator, BSI as the National Standards Body and all interested parties to deliver a system of building legislation that delivers safe and sustainable buildings. In doing so we need to seek to bring together the related requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the existing building stock and address the need for improved indoor environmental quality, in particular air quality, in our buildings in future. It is essential that a systems-based approach is adopted to address the various interventions that are needed to remediate unsafe cladding and reduce carbon emissions from buildings and these are not addressed as separate issues.
Stay up to date with the latest Building Safety Act updates from CIBSE via https://go.cibse.org/BuildingSafetyAct-FMevent
Find out more about the current Government consultations relating to the Building Safety Act and contribute to the CIBSE response via https://go.cibse.org/BuildingSafetyConsultations-FMevent