The Building Safety Bill, which at the time of writing is passing through the House of Commons, is far from just another piece of building safety legislation. It has been described by UK Government officials as helping to bring about the “biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years.”
So, what do you need to know about the Building Safety Bill as a landlord or property owner wishing to ensure compliance with the latest UK building safety regulations?
Understanding the new Building Safety Bill?
The Building Safety Bill was introduced in the Commons in July 2021, and arose as a response to the Independent Review of Building Regulations, led by Dame Judith Hackitt in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that claimed the lives of 72 people.
The review uncovered “deep flaws” in the regulations applicable to high-rise buildings, with the failings cited including – but not limited to – “ignorance”, “indifference to quality”, “misinterpretations of guidance”, “insufficient enforcement tools”, and a “lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities”.
These findings have fed into the scope and ambition of the Building Safety Bill, which is geared towards eradicating current failings in the building regulations, preventing future disasters and making residential buildings safer.
A key change brought in by the Bill is the introduction of the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), which will help enforce the Bill under the umbrella of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This new regulator will have the responsibility of undertaking inspections to make sure high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs) are safely designed and constructed, and that they continue to be safe once occupied.
The BSR will also have powers to impose sanctions in case of serious non-compliance, which may take the form of orders to rectify work, significant fines, or – in serious cases – prison time.
Who, and what buildings, does it apply to?
The provisions contained within the Building Safety Bill apply to building owners and the built environment industry, such as those who commission construction projects and participate in the design and building process. This means that clients, designers and contractors all need to take account of the requirements laid out in the Bill.
Building safety law is highly complex, with many different permutations affecting many different stakeholders.
This makes it difficult to provide a short summary of all the Bill’s provisions; nonetheless, it is crucial that architects, developers, contractors, specifiers, asset owners and facility management teams alike inform themselves about the Bill, so that they can prepare for it taking effect.
The Bill creates powers to bring in new design and construction requirements, applicable to high-rise residential buildings, hospitals and care homes of a minimum of 18 metres or at least seven storeys. Also included within the Bill are new occupation requirements for existing and new high-rise residential buildings of at least 18 metres or seven storeys.
When does the Bill become law, and how is it being rolled out?
Some elements of the Bill have already become law. This is because the Bill’s provisions are being rolled out using a ‘gateway’ system, which will phase in controls to give stakeholders and authorities the time to adapt and put in place the required measures.
The three ‘gateways’, or phases can be summed up as follows:
- Gateway one, which took effect from 1 August 2021. This gateway is implemented via amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and takes the form of a new facet of the existing planning application stage. It means that duty holders are now required to submit a fire statement to the planning authority, demonstrating that fire safety requirements have been accounted for and incorporated into their proposals, including emergency access to the building.
- Gateway two is the phase related to technical design and construction. This gateway will require duty holders to submit ‘key information’ to the BSR, setting out how the building will comply with regulations. This will include full plans as defined in the regulations, as well as a construction control plan, outlining how building safety will be maintained during the construction phase and the framework for mandatory reporting of safety concerns. It is also expected that duty holders will provide the BSR with a fire and emergency file, setting out key information on building safety, together with a ‘key dataset’ and supporting details to demonstrate that compliance with the regulations has been achieved.
- Gateway three, which can be considered to be the building control completion and final certificate stage. At this stage, the client – supported by duty holders – will be expected to provide the BSR with information on the final as-built building. This will encompass updated as-built plans making clear any variations since gateway two, and an updated fire and emergency file. It is also at this stage that the client, principal designer and principal contractor will be required to produce and co-sign a final declaration confirming that the building is compliant with regulations.
It is expected that all elements of the Building Safety Bill will have been implemented by about 2023, and that from this date and beyond, ‘gateway’ secondary legislation will be used to uphold its objectives.
What do people need to do?
The Bill enables the creation of a new duty holder regime, which will apply across the lifecycle of buildings regarded as representing a higher risk. This framework is based on the principle that – as far as possible – the person or entity that creates a building safety risk should be responsible for managing that risk.
The Government has already published a factsheet on who these duty holders are – namely clients, principal designers, designers, principal contractors, and contractors.
Practical steps that duty holders will be required to take in accordance with the provisions of the Building Safety Bill include the below:
- Obtaining an EWS1 form. This assessment sets out whether, as far as building societies are concerned, a given HRRB is safe or unsafe. In the event of a HRRB being deemed unsafe by this measure, it won’t be possible to obtain a loan for it from a mortgage lender.
- Proving competence. Principal contractors and principal designers working on HRRBs will be required to prove competence, and clients will be expected to sign a declaration confirming that these standards have been met by their appointed teams.
- Putting in place a reporting system. One of the key requirements of the Bill is Mandatory Occurrence Reporting to the BSR at every stage of the building lifecycle. In effect, duty holders will need to implement a reporting system for the entire asset lifecycle, for reporting any structural or fire safety issues that could pose significant risk to life.
- Maintaining a Residents Engagement Strategy. Another important role as far as the Building Safety Bill is concerned, is that of the Accountable Person, who will be appointed by building owners as the named contact responsible for building safety in HRRBs. Once a given building is occupied, it is this person who will require a system through which to provide residents with information and allow them to file complaints. A single information management platform is likely to be the best solution here.
- Joining the New Homes Ombudsman. It will also be a requirement under the Bill for developers to register with the New Homes Ombudsman. This is intended to create a new Code of Practice governing such aspects as sales, marketing, standards, complaints, and enforcement of the Code.
How can the Vision Pro software help you achieve compliance?
With the Vision Pro platform providing building owners, landlords, and contractors with a centralised database containing live data in relation to risk compliance, assets, audits and maintenance, it is a key tool for keeping you in compliance with the Building Safety Bill.
Our widely trusted software incorporates platforms that can give you a clear overview of your building’s present condition, maintenance and audit needs and fire risk management. This, in turn, will enable you to consistently make the most informed decisions, based on live, current data.
To learn more about Vision Pro and the real-world benefits this all-in-one solution can bring to you as a property owner or landlord, please book your demo online or call us today.