Probably the biggest topic this year; The Building Safety Act. What is it? What does it mean? Let us tell you everything we know about it.
The aim of the new Building Safety Act (BSA) 2022 is to reform building safety legislation and will impact those across the construction and building maintenance sectors. The Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 is at the heart of the act having highlighted many of the serious implications existing within the construction industry.
The new act serves to prevent corner cutting or bad practices, and the defining key is responsibility. Moving forward, companies and individuals need to understand what their responsibilities are and accept that there will be accountability for them.
We’ve outlined some key points from this new legislation:
First up, let’s be clear about what falls under the Act and what doesn’t: works that do not fall under this Act are those that have applied prior to October 2023 or have started on site prior to April 2024. Starting on site means taking work up to DPC or to floor slab (on new build). What starting on site for a conversion or any work to an existing high-risk building is, is still to be defined.
Which buildings will the Act focus on?
The responsibility for competence applies to all building works that are subject to building regulations. The Act is a legal requirement that applies to even the smallest residential alteration and whether the contractor is legally responsible for compliance (in formal contract or not).
The Act has significant controls in place for high-risk residential buildings (HRRB). These are buildings over 18m in height, seven storeys or contain two or more residential units. Non-high-risk buildings are also outlined, these are under 18m or seven storeys (typically commercial spaces, student accommodation, hospitals and care homes, or secure residential institutions such as hotels and military barracks).
Clarification of dutyholders
Roles within the project are a significant aspect of the BSA. These are Client, Designer, Contractor, Principal Designer and Principal Contractor. Usually, the Client, Designer and Contractor would be responsible for non-high risk building works and the principal designer and principal contractor would be responsible for high-risk building works. However, this will depend on what building work is being carried out and the extent of it. There is still secondary legislation needed to define for certain the roles and responsibilities of each dutyholder.
Two new roles
Another major change is the appointment of a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) and Accountable Person. From October 2023 through to April 2024, all Building Control officers/inspectors are to be individually registered and undertake work for a registered Building Control Company/Body. A BSR is only appointed for high-risk buildings and has the power of prosecution.
The Accountable Person (building owner, management company) will have an ongoing duty to assess building safety risks and provide a ‘Safety Case Report’ which outlines how risks are identified, mitigated, and managed.
The Golden Thread of information
A defining element of the Building Safety Act is the responsibility on Clients, Designers and Contractors to be competent and ensure compliance with the Building Regulations. For Principal Designers and Contractors, the responsibility for competence extends to compliance with the Act.
In basic terms, The Golden Thread acts as a an always accessible audit trail throughout the life of a building. It will be a collaborative, effective and whole lifestyle solution. The overall aim of The Golden Thread is to ensure that people have the right information at the right time to ensure the building and it’s occupants remain safe.
Following The Fire Safety Regulations 2022, that came about because of Grenfell, it is now necessary for high-risk buildings to have a secure information box to help firefighters. These boxes will hold The Golden Thread of information including but not limited to things such as the plans of the building, fire strategy and the dutyholder’s names.
The Gateway Regime
The Gateway Regime is essentially a three-part sign off: design, deposit of information and practical completion. The major changes include; having to reach RIBA stage 4 prior to the start of the project and Building Control having to fully approve plans before construction.
For high-risk buildings, all relevant information must be sent to the BSR who have 12-weeks to make a decision. During the project, any major or notifiable changes must be recorded and reported back to the BSR with detailed information outlining the impact that this change will have on building regulations. In the event of a refusal, applications must be re-submitted to restart the process in its entirety.
Revised sections outlining Building Materials
There will be amendments to The Building Act, 1984. Section 38 has yet to come into force and a date remains unclear, but it provides a general right of action for breachers of the building regulations for up to 15-years from the date of completion (for all buildings completed after 28th June 2022). Please note, this is prospective, not retrospective.
Amendments will also highlight a general duty to ensure that works are conducted in a professional manner and with adequate and proper materials.
The BSA is a legal framework for building safety during design, construction and in occupation. It is making groundbreaking reforms to give residents and homeowners more rights, powers, and protections to ensure greater safety of their homes. Equally, it aims to encourage construction and building control professionals to improve their competence. However, a lot of secondary legislation around this Act is still to come into force, so there is still many grey areas. It is anticipated that the Act will be completely in force by April 2024.
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