Fellows Article Series

Building Safety (Part 1) – The Bill

In a series of articles over the coming weeks, Fellows’ Associate Director of Project Management – Jonathan Russell – delves deeper into the governments Building Safety Programme, with an assessment of the proposed Building Safety Bill and the Building Safety Regulator. In today’s article, Jonathan sets the scene and provides a general update on the passage of the Bill through parliament.

For those of us who work in the Built Environment, waking on the 14th June 2017 to news of a fire in Kensington will live long in the memory. The implications of those tragic events and the damning findings of the Independent Enquiry led by Dame Judith Hackett have cascaded through our industry and will ultimately lead to fundamental structural changes. Grenfell led to an indictment of the UK construction industry as a whole, and highlighted failure on the part of those involved in the built environment (both construction and asset management) in prioritising safety and the preservation of human life.

In the immediate aftermath, the government and industry bodies consulted upon immediate changes to the Building Regulations and the Fire Safety Order to strengthen the regulatory framework and raise the standards of fire safety in the design and construction process. But now, in 2021, the long-term “solution” to the issue of Fire Safety is under scrutiny, as the Building Safety Bill (the Bill) is passed through the UK parliament on its way to ratification. The Bill will see the creation of a series of new powers to address the long-term structural issues that resulted in the Grenfell Tragedy. Not least, the Bill will see the creation of the Building Safety Regulator and the implementation of the Building Safety Certificate, under the remit of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), as an additional statutory vehicle for implementing best practice and controlling fire safety measures in the Built Environment.

In principle, these changes are a positive step to addressing the problems highlighted by the Hackett Review, but what will this Building Safety Regulator look like and how will it affect those of us with an interest in the delivery of projects.

The Building Safety Regulator will be an independent body that oversees the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings are effectively managed and resolved. It will also become a statutory consultee as part of changes to the planning framework, that will include Building Safety as a paramount consideration during the planning application stage.

The Bill establishes a serious of strategic gateways which act as a serious of statutory checks and balances, to ensure that safety is considered by all parties during the entire design and construction process. Gateway 1 for example, places obligations on those who are applying for planning permission, to consider the building height and safety risks at key stage and prior to the appointment of key duty holders. Although the Bill is unlikely to become law until 2023, the government has announced that Gateway 1 will be introduced ahead of the full regime by August 2021 and will become a key planning requirement from that date (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fire-safety-and-high-rise-residential-buildings-from-1-august-2021).

Mirroring the HSE’s CDM Regulations, the Bill will also see the creation of “duty-holders” and a competence regime for buildings deemed as high risk, during construction and into occupation. Duty holders include Clients, Designers, Project Managers and Building Managers, and they will be required to inform the Building Safety Regulator of any safety risks that pose a significant risk to life. This reporting obligation will also continue through the life of the asset as an obligation for asset managers, ensuring responsibility is always in place from inception through to disposal.

Finally, it also creates the fundamental principal of the “Building Safety Certificate”, which will be provided to the owner of an asset upon completion, demonstrating compliance with the competency regime. This certificate will then be attached to the building, to be updated as and when asset managers make changes to a building during its life, through to disposal.  

Moving forward over the coming weeks, Fellows will be delving deeper into Building Safety, with a series of articles that look more deeply into the impact of the Building Safety Regulator. How will this affect our approach to planning and delivery, what impact will this have on our employers and ultimately the building owners. Most importantly we will also look at the wider issues around implementation. Please keep a look out for these in the coming weeks, and we would be more than happy for you to share within your wider network.

If you have any queries about the content of this article or believe you could benefit from an informal discussion with one of the Fellows team, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please contact – Jonathan Russell, Associate Director, Fellows Construction Consultants via email on jr@fellowsconsultants.co.uk.

© Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP