Draft Building Safety Bill – 7 key points for builders and developers

The Government has published a draft of its long-awaiting Building Safety Bill, summarising fundamental reforms of the building safety system across England and Wales.

Three years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and a year following the publication of Dame Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report, the significant bill draws together actions that seek to address the report’s 53 recommendations and sets out to achieve four broad aims:

  1. Create a more effective regulatory and accountability framework to provide greater oversight of the building industry
  2. Introduce clearer standards and guidance
  3. Put residents at the heart of a new system of building safety
  4. Help to create a culture of change and a more responsible building industry

So what does the bill contain and, subject to final scrutiny, what can builders, developers and housing providers expect to become law?

1. A new Building Safety Regulator

The Bill establishes the HSE as the new Building Safety Regulator which will have three broad functions:

  1. To implement a new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher risk buildings and to become the building control authority for the construction of such buildings
  2. Overseeing the safety and performance of ALL buildings, which will include:
    1. Overseeing the performance of other building control bodies, such as local authorities and approved inspectors
    2. Understanding and advising on existing and emerging building standards and safety risks, advising on regulatory change if required
  3. Assisting and encouraging competence among the built environment industry, and registered building inspectors, including:
    1. Establishing and setting strategic direction of a proposed industry-led competence committee, carrying out research and analysis, publishing non-statutory advice and guidance etc
    2. Establishing a unified building control profession with competence requirements for registration as a building control professional that will be common across both public sector (local authorities) and private sector

2. More stringent regime for higher-risk buildings

This new regime will involve:

  • The introduction of duty-holders that will have accountability and statutory responsibilities for managing risks across the design, construction and occupation of buildings
  • Gateway points (stop/go decision points) which will provide inspection of regulatory requirements to ensure building safety risks are considered during planning, design and construction. There are three main Gateway points:
    • Planning Gateway, requiring fire safety information to be submitted to the local planning authority as part of the planning application, and the Building Safety Regulator a required consultee for higher risk buildings
    • Gateway Two, before construction starts, where the regulator must be satisfied that the design meets the functional requirements of the building regulations
    • Gateway Three, at the final certificate/completion stage, for final assessment and the point at which a ‘golden thread’ of information is collated and handed over to the duty-holder
  • A ‘golden thread’ of building information to be created, stored and updated through the Gateway process and through the building’s lifecycle
  • Mandatory reporting to the new regulator of fire and structural safety occurrences which could cause risk to life
  • A building assurance certificate issued by the Building Safety Regulator, confirming the building is fit for occupation and provides transparency on the assessments and findings at the time of certification
  • Several requirements of the duty-holder – or Accountable Person – including:
    • To assess building safety risks and take all reasonable steps to prevent any major incidents
    • A requirement by law to provide a safety case report
    • To appoint a competent Building Safety Manager to support them in managing fire and structural safety risks day to day
    • Engage and develop a strong partnership with residents to keep the building and its occupants safe

Make sure you check out our fire safety resource covering the external walls and envelope of taller buildings.

3. Enforcement and Sanctions

The Building Safety Regulator will have extended powers for enforcement and sanctions against non-compliance. These will include:

  • Extended time limits to apply formal enforcement powers in relation to non-compliance, from two years to 10 years, and from 1 year to 10 years for section 36 notices
  • The Building Safety Regulator will have powers to prosecute all offences under the Bill and the Building Act 1984, including section 35. It will also have powers to prosecute individuals as well as corporate interests
  • The Regulator will have powers to enter premises (a warrant will be needed for domestic properties), issue compliance and stop notices. Failure to comply will be a criminal offence with up to two-year jail penalties and unlimited fines
  • It will also have powers over building control bodies, where non registration or poor performance could lead to suspensions, register removal or prosecution
  • The Building Safety Regulator can appoint a Special Measures Manager where an Accountable Person or Building Safety Manager fails to meet their duties

4. New Homes Ombudsman and social housing complaints

Earlier this year we revealed that many developers were broadly in favour of the introduction of a new homes ombudsman scheme.

The Bill will require relevant developers to become members of the new homes ombudsman. It also introduces a power to issue or approve a code of practice for the conduct and workmanship expected of its members.

For the first time, new build homebuyers will have their right to complain to the scheme protected in legislation, and the scheme will have the power to order developers to put matters right and pay compensation, where relevant.

The Bill also removes the so-called ‘democratic filter’ that requires social housing complaints to be passed via a designated person, usually a locally elected member or MP. The Bill will enable social housing residents to complain directly to the ombudsman, having already followed the complaint procedure with their housing provider.

5. Building Control Reform

The Bill seeks to create a unified professional and regulatory structure for building control through proposals for the Building Safety Regulator to establish and maintain a register of building inspectors (individuals) and building control approvers (either organisations or individuals).

It also introduces new work titles. Individuals and organisations currently known as ‘Approved Inspectors’ will need to register as ‘building control approvers’.

The registered building inspector is a new role, to provide advice to local authorities or registered building control approvers overseeing building work. Many inspectors in local authorities and Approved Inspectors are expected to transition to this role.

The Bill also removes the ability for a person carrying out any building work for higher-risk buildings to choose their own building control body.

6. Construction Products

The Bill creates powers for the potential to regulate all construction products placed on the UK market. It introduces the concept of a “safety critical product” and gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations to place these products on a statutory list.

The Bill paves the way for new civil and criminal penalties for regulation breaches. While Trading Standards mainly enforce regulations now, the Bill will also give enforcement powers to the Secretary of State, with the aim of building ‘national oversight’ in central government. Trading Standards’ enforcement powers will be extended to meet the needs of the new regime.

7. Competence of Architects

The Bill introduces a power for the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to monitor competence of the architects on their register. In order to use the title ‘architect’, a person must be on the ARB register. Currently, architects are not required to undertake Continuing Professional Development or any competence checks throughout their career. The ARB will be given the power to update the criteria by which an architect can be registered with them.

The ARB will be able to remove architects from its register for professional breaches, incompetence or other serious misconduct. It will also be able to publically display sanctions against an architect, to ‘increase transparency for consumers.’

Find more information about the Draft Building Safety Bill on the government website here.

You can also read our partner organisation LABC's initial thoughts on the bill here.

Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.

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