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Major changes to the Building Safety Act: What to look out for

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Building Safety Act 2022 aimed to revolutionise the way buildings are designed and constructed. While this was a major shift in the regulatory framework, further significant changes were introduced on 1st October 2023. Although the initial transitional period was set to end on 6th April, this was extended until 6th July to avoid the industry grinding to a halt. So, what should we look out for now that built environment professionals have longer to prove their competence?

Seen as a more stringent regime for the regulation of all controlled building work, including the statutory registration of all building control inspectors, the amendments will create a category of ‘higher risk buildings’ (HRBs) that will be overseen by the Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

In fact, the Act will create a more rigorous and demanding regime for the planning, design, construction and operation of prescribed classes of buildings, with new building control and planning gateways, safety cases, accountable persons, and a statutory golden thread of information, all linked to a formal certification of a building by the BSR.

Additionally, the introduction of new regulations covering the competence of those who undertake building work and new statutory roles for designers and contractors on all projects will apply to not just HRBs but all building work, impacting any project that requires building regulations approval – with only limited exceptions.

While the transitional period has been extended, it’s imperative that industry professionals understand exactly how these regulation changes could impact the industry after 6th July 2024.

What has changed and how will this impact the industry?

Under the new regulations, the BSR became the building control body for new HRBs, overseeing safety standards and implementing the new regulatory framework for high-rise buildings. These are classed as any buildings at least seven storeys tall and over 18 metres in height. Additionally, they must contain at least two residential units, including care homes, student accommodation and hospitals. These buildings must have been registered with BSR by 1st October 2023.

In fact, any building work on an HRB will need to be submitted to the BSR for approval. Local authority building control departments and approved building inspectors will no longer be able to handle these applications.

Any construction projects face three safety checkpoints, with Gateways Two and Three now impacted by the new Building Safety Act regulations. Indeed, Gateway Two requires applicants to submit building control applications to BSR before construction can commence. Gateway Three sees the BSR assessing whether work has been completed in line with building regulations before occupation.

For higher-risk building projects to continue under the current framework, initial notices or full plans had to have been submitted and not rejected by 1st October 2023. Furthermore, the project must have ‘sufficiently progressed’ by the original deadline of April 6th 2024. Any projects that met these criteria won’t have been subject to Gateways Two and Three.

All information submitted in support of an HRB application will also be stored in the ‘Golden Thread’ of information, a key recommendation of the Grenfell enquiry. This allows anyone involved in a project to understand the building and the steps needed to keep both the building and its occupants safe.

Safety case reports, summarising major structural and fire hazards and risk management measures, are also mandatory. In fact, principal accountable persons must have identified and assessed safety risks, underlined how safety incidents can be prevented and revealed measures to mitigate their severity.

Only registered building inspectors will be able to work in building control

The amendments to the Act will also see the introduction of registered building control approvers and registered building inspectors, who will provide advice to those overseeing building work. Collaborating with the registered building control approvers, these inspectors will assess workmanship, materials and adherence to plans and issue completion certificates or notices of non-compliance.

All building control approvers and inspectors now need to be registered, with a code of conduct and defined registration criteria established by BSR. These professionals will be required to complete their accreditation by the newly extended 6th July 2024 deadline.

There are still many practicing professionals yet to start their applications to register

According to the latest figures from the BSR, around 3,200 practicing professionals have started their applications to register. That means that as it stands, around 72% of all building control surveyors will likely be registered by the 6th July deadline.

Any building control surveyors only registered at class one by the now 6th July deadline, will be unable to carry out building control functions unsupervised. While the deadline has been extended, there are fears in the industry that many professionals are going to be unable to get their credentials in order.

This is partly down to the BSR’s schema of registration classes and sub-classes being so complex. Additionally, for higher levels, there are exams to be passed, not something therefore that can be done instantaneously.

With the process being so important in establishing building control as a regulated profession, it’s imperative that action is taken without delay. This is especially pertinent given that the BSR has made it clear that there will be no further extensions to the 6th July deadline.

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