With recent talk of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry continuing online via zoom, the tragedy of the 72 lives lost is still very much in the Construction arena. From the Grenfell Inquiry safety checks were put in place finding another 176 residential high-rise buildings were also wrapped in the same aluminium composite. Despite the additional £1 billion building safety fund which was pledged in March 2020 to spend on removing the ACM cladding the Government’s consultation has gone further and has put in reforms to improve safety and minimise the risk of fire in high rise buildings. The update stated that replacing the unsafe cladding was a priority and will be replaced even during the coronavirus pandemic and that this was critical to safety to residents.
In addition to the cladding replacement the Government have put in additional project management support with construction expertise to help with remediation and support individual projects and the keep the pace of the project all under the policy of ‘Building a Safer Future’. A New Building Safety Regulator (BSR) is be established as part of the Health and Safety Executive to enforce a more stringent regulatory regime and the ensure the new regulatory framework for construction products is implemented during the construction process.
The BSR will also be responsible for the overall safety and management of all high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres high or 6 storeys or more and lived in by multiple households.
The Government has set out what it has already done, the new changes and improvements that it will affect and has introduced that there will be a new clear set of duty-holders looking after the buildings at all stages of the life-cycle of the building. Five duty-holders have been identified (client, principal designer, principal contractor, designer and contractor) who will be responsible for safety from design to construction and compliance with building regulations. If necessary sanctions may be enforced against duty-holders.
For occupation an accountable person is then assigned who is the person legally responsible for fire and safety of a building and will be the individual, partnership or corporate body with the legal right to receive funds through service charges or rent. They have to create a ‘safety case’ and can appoint a Building Safety Manager to deal with safety problems that are reported by residents. The duty-holder will be responsible for the golden thread of building information which will held digitally and could include information on the structure of the building and any refurbishments made. They will be required to show they are managing risks at new gateway points before they continue with different stages of the building process. (Gateway 1: Fire Statement; Gateway 2: Full plans and supporting documents showing how the building has been designed to be safe; Gateway 3: Before people move in, building safety information about the completed building and a provisional registration of the building is required showing that Building risks have been assessed.)
Over and above this the Government has proposed that the new building safety regulator is there to ensure that the new regime is effectively enforced. The regulator will oversee the wider building and regulatory system.
Stronger regulation has been proposed with regards to construction products critical to safety. Legislation outlining manufacturers responsibilities has been introduced focusing on clearer labelling information and usage as well as national complaints system and independent assurance schemes. Lastly the Government has outlined the new criminal offences that can be enforced for those responsible for the buildings and the residents in it and monetary penalties have been introduced to ensure that the new regime is adhered to.
The Government’s reformed system for building safety introduces new responsibilities and obligations on the parties involved in the design, construction and occupation of buildings. The Building Safety Bill has yet to receive a second reading and the current situation regarding Covid-19 all combine to provide a significant impact on the industry with the tougher regime consequently taking time to implement in full.
If you would like to discuss any of the information above please contact Guy Thomas