Building safety law signed but doubts and fears remain

The Building Safety Act began life as a review of a flawed regulatory system that allowed the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire to kill so many people

Some of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations for building safety reform were made, but others were discarded when the Bill passed Parliament.

The Building Safety Act 2022 enshrines in law the creation of the Building Safety Regulator, an office within the Health & Safety Executive to oversee the new system with enforcement and sanctioning powers.

A building products regulator will also have the power to remove unsafe products from the market.

A New Home Ombudsman will provide redress to dissatisfied new home buyers.

The law also enshrines the requirement for a “golden thread” of information for the storage and dissemination of all safety-related matters in the design and construction of high-risk residential buildings. There are also new requirements for bondholders to have clear accountability and statutory responsibilities when designing, constructing and renovating buildings.

However, one of Dame Judith Hackitt’s key recommendations was dropped when the legislation was passed. Hackitt recommended the creation of a new legal role of building security officer, to provide a single point of accountability. The government included it in the bill but was persuaded to remove it on 22n/a March when the legislation was passed after taking evidence that it would result in substantial additional costs for tenants.

Although the Building Safety Act became law today, many provisions will not come into force for another 12 to 18 months, requiring secondary legislation and preparing the industry for the new regime.

Eddie Tuttle, Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research at the Chartered Institute of Building, said: “We are delighted that the Building Safety Bill has received Royal Assent to ensure building safety is a priority and to provide much-needed accountability in the system. This provides long-awaited certainty to the industry, although the next twelve to eighteen months will be crucial in preparing built environment professionals for the new roles and skills that will be needed.

“However, concerns remain that some of the recent changes, such as the removal of the requirement to appoint a building security officer, will lead to a lack of clarity on the appropriate skills and training for those occupying the role of ‘responsible persons’ and potential inconsistency in the implementation of building safety management regimes.

“The CIOB, in line with its public interest mandate, will continue to play a vital role in supporting the quality and safety agenda. The CIOB will also continue to work with our sister business organizations to ensure that the new provisions are workable in practice and that the development of secondary legislation and guidance is fit for purpose.

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The Construction Industry Council (CIC), a forum representing most of the industry’s professional institutions, said the Building Safety Act “represents a paradigm shift in the way residential buildings should be designed, built, managed and regulated”. However, he said the construction industry was not yet prepared for the change in culture demanded by the new legislation.

“There must be a considerable communications exercise to create the necessary culture change in the industry and to absorb the new regulatory regime,” the CIC said.

While welcoming the 262-page law, which has taken two years since a draft bill was released in 2020, CIC said it had reservations about the significant changes made when the bill passed. law. In particular, the holistic process recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a safer future The report was “chosen”, the CIC said.

The last-minute change of heart regarding the legal requirement to appoint a building security officer is a prime example of this departure from Hackitt recommendations. The role has been abolished, but the functions of ensuring the safety of buildings for residents remain and the idea that the cost of managing the safety of occupied buildings, under the law, will not accrue to residents is small likely to be the case whether or not there is a requirement to appoint a building security officer, the CIC said.

The council is also concerned about the impact of extended liability under the law – extending the period of liability under the defective premises act from six to 30 years “is impractical for practical and contractual reasons”, said declared CIC. “This amendment is likely to further exacerbate an already uncertain market for professional indemnity insurance.”

He added: “The PII market for construction-related activities in general and any work on high-rise residential buildings, in particular, is already far too small to meet demand and there is adequate data to show. that companies leave the market as a result. This is a major problem that requires urgent state intervention to allow companies to continue to be able to carry out design, construction and management works for high-rise apartment buildings and more broadly, work on fire risk and building safety. Combined with the rising cost of construction work, particularly in relation to the availability of building products and inflation, this will have a constraining impact on the industry’s ability to meet housing demand, especially affordable housing. This is a matter that the Treasury will have to consider very carefully.

Further information on the Building Safety Act 2022 requirements can be found at

www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-factsheets

What Happens Next (click to enlarge)
What Happens Next (click to enlarge)

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Jennifer C. Burleigh