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The Building Safety Bill is the direct result of recommendations made in the Grenfell inquiry and the Hackitt Review. The framework set out in the draft Bill will impact the entire construction supply chain. The provisions target ‘higher risk’ buildings, but the Bill will introduce a stricter safety regime with implications for all buildings. This includes all multi-occupancy residential buildings over 18 metres or 7 stories high in England. Care homes and hospitals are considered within this scope, but only during the design and construction stages.
Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will be created to oversee and enforce a rigorous building safety system. Those in senior roles in companies can also be liable if an offence is committed with “their consent or connivance” or is attributable to their neglect.
The BSR function is going to be funded by a full cost recovery approach, enabling the Regulator to charge fees – to be set in future regulations - and recover charges from those it regulates. Duty holders include the client, the principal designer at the design phase, the principal contractor in the construction phase and the accountable person at the occupation stage.
The Appointed Person (AP) must apply to register a higher risk building before it becomes occupied. The Building Safety Regulator will be responsible for keeping a register of higher risk buildings.
- They will have to produce and maintain a safety case report, which must be produced to the BSR.
- The AP will have to appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee building safety on a day-to-day basis.
- The AP must maintain a Residents Engagement Strategy covering access to safety information and complaints procedures.
- The BSR will have the power to replace the AP with a Special Measures Manager if there are serious failures that endanger life safety.
- There will be additional measures in place to govern the competence of architects and other building industry professionals.
The Three Gateways
The Bill breaks the life of a building into three stages called “Gateways” with different duty holders and responsibilities. At each stage, information must be recorded and stored digitally, creating a ‘Golden Thread’ of vital information about the building over its lifetime.
- Gateway 1 is created at the planning stage. The required information – including a ‘Fire Statement’ will be provided by those applying for planning permission for developments. The BSR will become a new statutory consultee.
- Gateway 2 supplements the existing building control system. Gateway 2 provides a ‘hard stop’ where construction cannot begin until the BSR is satisfied in relation to the Building Regulations, safety and fire safety.
- Gateway 3 is equivalent to the current completion/final certificate phase. Duty holders will be required to submit to the regulator prescribed documents and information on the completed building.
A New Homes Ombudsman will be created giving householders’ direct access to the Ombudsman process. Developers that fail to sign up to the Ombudsman will face sanctions.
Under the Defective Premises Act, if a dwelling is unfit for habitation, a leaseholder can make a claim within six years of the building being constructed. This time limit is set to be amended to 15 years and will also cover refurbishment and remediation work.
Timeline of activity
- The government says that Building Safety Regulator will be operating in scale within 12-18 months and is currently working in shadow form.
- The obligations on the accountable person are expected to come into force within 12-18 months of the bill receiving royal assent, which itself is not expected for 12 months but could easily happen by the end of the year.
Additional implications for stakeholders
- Businesses will need to put in place internal processes to enable them to comply with their reporting obligations.
- Clients have a duty to check the competence of those they instruct to undertake works. Companies should take steps now to put in place suitable training processes.
- There may be implications for insurance.