The Building Safety Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, is poised to introduce what the government calls “the biggest changes to building safety regulations in a generation.” As the primary legislative action in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire, the Bill introduces much-needed safety reforms that will change how in-scope structures are built and maintained in the future.
But what exactly does the Bill mean for new homes, and what can homeowners and developers expect from it once it passes into law? We answer some of the most frequently asked questions below about the Building Safety Bill.
The Bill impacts all housing developers, contractors and organisations involved in constructing and designing in-scope buildings — from planning to occupation. In-scope structures are designed as “higher-risk buildings” in England, which are:
- At least seven storeys or 18 metres in height; and
- Comprising at least two residential units.
However, experts believe that the Bill may eventually affect structures other than those over 18 metres in height. The Local Government Association (LGA), for example, is pushing to expand the scope of the Bill to include buildings under 18 metres in height.
“The LGA has always maintained that height is a poor indicator of risk,” the organisation explains. “We are also concerned that by restricting the scope of the Building Safety Regulator to buildings over 18 metres, the Government risks creating a two-tier system.”
The Bill will establish a new Building Safety Regulator — a new oversight body embedded within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and led by the first Chief Inspector of Buildings.
The Building Safety Regulator will have three primary responsibilities:
- Overseeing the safety and standards of all in-scope buildings;
- Helping and encouraging the built environment industry and building control professionals to improve their competence; and
- Leading implementation of the new regulatory framework for high-rise buildings.
The new regulator will also oversee the performance of local authority building control bodies (LABCs) and private sector-approved inspector building control approvers. Building inspectors and approving bodies will have to adhere to registration requirements and be subject to removal or suspension if they fail to comply with the new rules.
The regulator will also have the power to stop the construction of new in-scope buildings at the planning, pre-construction and pre-occupation stages.
The Bill will identify “Accountable Persons” for occupied higher-risk buildings. These are landlords and freeholders in charge of maintaining and repairing common parts in the building, such as the structure, exterior and common areas, to ensure the structure’s safety.
However, residents also have a critical role in keeping their buildings safe. Residents are encouraged to report repairs and concerns to their principal Accountable Person. If their complaints are not resolved, they have the right to escalate their concerns to the Building Safety Regulator.
Assuming no major delays, the Bill is expected to become law between April and July 2022. However, the law’s provisions will be introduced in stages within 12 to 18 months of Royal Assent. Realistically, we expect the law to come into force sometime around 2023.
You can subscribe to the HSE’s free BSR eBulletin here for more information.
To learn more about the Building Safety Bill and other key issues affecting the UK construction industry, visit CHAS — the leading health and safety assessment scheme and provider of risk mitigation, compliance, and supply chain management services.