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On 2 April, the Government announced a further range of measures to improve building safety in Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs), which are now defined as buildings that are either over 18 metres high or over 6 stories. Promoting the need for monitoring over the entire lifecycle of a building and the importance of tenant involvement, these measures will have a significant impact on those involved in both the construction and management of residential buildings.
These measures are to be brought in via a Building Safety Bill, but the Government has not set out the timescale for this. The Government announcement included:
- Details of the role of the Building Safety Regulator (the Regulator) (based within the HSE). The duties of the Regulator will include:
- maintaining a register of HRRBs;
- providing advice and guidance to both dutyholders and the Government;
- acting as the building control body for Building Regulations approval for new “in-scope” buildings;
- issuing, reviewing or revoking Building Registration Certificates (without which a new “in-scope” building cannot be occupied);
- the right to issue “stop”, “compliance” or “improvement” notices, breach of which will be a criminal offence; and
- investigating residents’ complaints that have been escalated to the Regulator;
- Confirmation that during the construction of HRRBs, enhanced duties will be placed on dutyholders under the Construction (Design & Management) (CDM) Regulations. These duties will include responsibility for obtaining regulatory sign-off at “Gateways” 2 (before construction starts) and 3 (before occupation);
- Details of the duties to be placed on the “Accountable Person” (the organisation owning the building). These will include duties to:
- appoint a competent Building Safety Manager;
- register each “in scope” building (there will be a “transitional stage for existing buildings) and display the Building Registration Certificate prominently in the common parts of the building;
- comply with conditions in the Building Registration Certificate (or risk criminal penalties);
- submit a “safety case report” to the Regulator showing how fire and structural safety risks have been assessed and managed;
- maintain the “golden thread” of building information related to fire and structural safety in a digital format;
- report fire or structural safety events posing a significant threat to life to the Regulator (this duty will also apply to the Building Safety Manager); and
- rectify fire and structural safety risks identified by a review of the safety case;
- Duties on the Building Safety Manager on the refurbishment of an HRRB. The Building Safety Manager will be required to
- engage with residents and update the “safety case” in relation to any changes that may impact on fire or structural safety before carrying out particular refurbishments (details of which are still to be provided); and
- apply to the Regulator for Building Regulations approval, where it is needed for the works, or notify the Regulator of any proposed works that do not need Building Regulations approval, but that might affect fire or structural safety;
- A duty on the Building Safety Manager to produce a Resident Engagement Strategy; and
- Specific duties on residents. These will include duties not to remove compliant fire doors or make structural alterations that may compromise fire safety.
The Government is proposing to address “interface” issues between the building safety regime, housing fitness legislation and fire safety legislation through guidance.
At the same time as the Building Safety Bill proposals, the Government announced that:
- their view was that the replacement of high-rise cladding should continue during the Covid-19 pandemic as this is “critical to building safety and a top priority”;
- the results of tests they had carried out on other types of cladding including high-pressure laminate, had showed that they were not as combustible as the aluminium composite material used on Grenfell Tower, but that other cladding materials should still be assessed for safety and remediated if unsafe;
- Approved Document B (Building Regulations guidance on Fire Safety Standards) of which a “clarified” version was issued in summer 2019 will be reviewed and updated in May 2020;
- they will strengthen the oversight of construction products including establishing a Construction Products Standards Committee, expanding the products covered by regulation and “taking forward the development of standards of third party certification” (whatever that might mean);
- they were supporting the industry group set up to design a data-sharing portal to make mortgaging flats in HRRBs easier (but without giving any details about the nature of that “support”);
- they were supporting professionals who were finding it difficult to secure professional indemnity insurance for work on HRRBs (but, again, without providing details about the nature of that “support”).
For further support concerning this ebriefing, or regarding any other building safety issue, please contact Andrew Lancaster from our construction team or Lorna Kenyon from our regulatory team. If you have any concerns relating to fire safety in your organisation or would like to discuss how we can assist you, please visit our fire safety page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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