The long awaited Building Safety Act 2022 is finally here. Following the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt which was set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Building Safety Bill finally gained Royal Assent on 28 April.
Despite it being long in the making, it still seems to have taken the industry by surprise.
But before you dive straight into the Act, here are five things you need to know.
It’s not just about high rise buildings
One reason it may have taken many in the industry by surprise is because there is an expectation that it just relates to high rise buildings.
But, whilst there is an obvious focus on how the construction industry approaches building high rise buildings, the scope of the Building Safety Act 2022 reaches much further to cover how professional competencies are maintained and how building information, more generally, is stored.
Get the right team in place
A key message coming out of the Hackitt Review was the need to raise the competencies in the built environment industry.
And it’s not just about skills, knowledge and experience. Behaviour is also highlighted as a key aspect of competency.
Dame Hackitt found that key issues underpinning the systemic failure included ignorance, indifference and a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities.
“A lack of clear roles and responsibilities, and ambiguous regulations and guidance allow the market to procure without building safety in mind… [and] unhelpful behaviours such as contract terms and payment practices which prioritise speed and low cost solutions exacerbate this situation.”
With that in mind, the Act seeks to both clarify roles and responsibilities, and provide stronger oversight to ensure against poor performance.
The new regulations more clearly define who dutyholders are, ie the Principal Designer, Principal Contractors – or indeed anyone carrying out any design or building work – and put in place measures to ensure they are competent for their roles.
And here’s the important bit:
Whilst the onus is on architects and the wider design team to keep up their own professional competence, the developer is responsible for getting the right team in place. As the client, you will have to sign a declaration that you have assessed and are content with the competence of your appointed Principal Designer and Principal Contractor.
Get the right information in place
Dame Hackitt reported that process of creating, maintaining and handing over important building information was ineffective and often incomplete.
To address this, the Act reinforces the concept of mandatory reporting that is comprehensive, digital and up-to-date in real time so that it is accessible to the people who need to see it.
Who is responsible for maintaining this record?
The “dutyholders” are responsible for collating and maintaining key information through the planning, design and construction phases. That’s you – the developer – plus the Principal Designer, Principal Contractor, Designers and Contractors.
For higher risk buildings – that’s buildings 18m or higher, or seven storeys high (of at least two residential units, a care home or a hospital) – this information must be reported to the Building Safety Regulator at clearly defined stages of the process (“gateways”).
Where previously these sorts of files have been opened at the point that contractors are appointed[JP1] , now they really need to be opened at the start of a project, before the scheme has even secured planning consent.
Ultimately, as the client and key dutyholder, you are responsible for getting the systems in place to collate and store important information, and keeping it up-to-date. Once the building is completed and signed off by the BSR, responsibility transfers to the Accountable Person (usually the landlord, or other individual or organisation responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the building).
A new Building Safety Levy for high rise buildings
The Act introduces a new levy that developers of higher risk buildings will have to pay prior to construction work beginning. This is the means by which the government will raise funds to address building defects.
We’ll have to keep watch for secondary legislation to fill in the details regarding how – and how much – this levy will be.
The government has said, however, that SME builders will be protected to ensure viability is not affected.
A new Regulatory framework for Construction Products
The government wants to ensure that all construction products made available on the UK market fall under a regulatory regime that confronts poor practice, identifies safety concerns earlier and enforces the removal of unsafe construction products from the market.
This new rigorous framework will require manufacturers to supply clear and accurate performance information when placing products on the market. It will widen the number of products considered “safety critical” and should lead to greater certainty that products used in construction really are as safe as they claim to be.
Regulations will require manufacturers to complete a declaration of performance for safety critical products and put in place greater factory production controls.
It’s good news, but it will be important that your Principal Designer is fully informed so that the right products can be selected during the design phases.
Whilst there is still a lot to digest and more information to follow in secondary legislation, it’s clear that the Building Safety Act 2022 will introduce wholesale changes to the construction industry. If you need a Principal Designer for your project who is clued up to the implications of the Act, get in touch.