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What does the Building Safety Act mean for clients?


Warning! This subject matter, although essential to know for clients involved in building projects, is a little dry - if you'd rather hear it from the horse's mouth you can contact us here - or better still, appoint Holt Architecture on one of your projects and we'll do the legwork for you.


Introduced to Parliament in July 2021, the Building Safety Act 2022 officially became effective on April 1, 2023 and ushers in fresh obligations for the oversight of fire and building safety in high-rise residential structures. As of 1st October 2023, the new regime of the Act came into law, including modifications to requirements for higher-risk buildings (HRBs), increased responsibilities for building owners, and alterations to fire safety legislation. These revisions follow the comprehensive reviews conducted in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy and they represent a key component of the government's response.


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What is the Building Safety Act 2022?


The Building Safety Act of 2022 (BSA 2022) has brought about significant reforms that grant residents enhanced rights, authority, and safeguards concerning the safety of their residences. These regulations are aimed at bolstering the safety of high-risk buildings, both during their construction and for the people residing within them.


New regulations referred to either as ‘secondary legislation’, ‘new regime’ or ‘regulations’ published on 17 August 2023 include:



The release of this secondary legislation, arguably one of the most significant regulatory transformations in the industry since the 1980s, represents a substantial stride towards implementing more rigorous project supervision. This entails a clearer framework for accountability in ensuring the safety of both High-Rise Residential Buildings (HRBs) and non-HRBs throughout the phases of design, construction, and occupancy.

The new legislation delineates the specifics of fresh roles and responsibilities for Dutyholders, establishes timelines, and introduces alterations to workflows and procedures.



At a glance:

CIBSE Building Safety Act summary diagram

Image: CIBSE


  • The Building Safety Act establishes a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) tasked with overseeing all types of buildings. It also introduces new legal roles for designers and contractors across all projects. The BSR is set to be fully operational as of April 2023.

  • This Act instigates a more stringent framework for the planning, design, construction, and operation of specified categories of structures. It incorporates new planning and building control checkpoints, designates "accountable persons," mandates safety cases, and implements a statutory "golden thread of information." All these elements are intertwined with formal certification from the regulator, confirming the building's fitness for occupation.

  • Furthermore, the Act fortifies the entire building control system, placing the BSR in charge of upholding professional standards and regulating the registration of building control officers, whether they operate in the public or private sector.

  • The Act also encompasses substantial provisions regarding construction products and the legal liabilities associated with defective products.

  • In addition to these measures, the Act introduces various safeguards for leaseholders, reducing their financial responsibility for the expenses related to the rectification of unsafe cladding.



What are the changes to the Building Control process?


In addition to the greater responsibility to clients, designers and contractors, a new Building Control process will come into force for all Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs).


HRBs are defined (within the Building Higher-Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2023.) as those buildings with seven or more storeys or at least one storey with a finished floor height more than 18m above ground level and contain two or more residential units. Hospitals and care homes meeting the same height thresholds are also considered as HRBs during the initial design and construction phase only.


Where you are creating a new HRB or you are undertaking alterations which would trigger the need to make a Building Regulations application to an existing registered HRB, you must now contact and register the work with the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) rather than a different registered control body.



When do the changes come into play?


Any new project requiring Building Regulations approval on or after 1 October 2023 will automatically fall under this new legislation and the relevant building control body will require additional documentation at both the appointment and completion stage of the project.


For existing projects where the Initial Notice has been registered before 1 October 2023 and been accepted by the Local Authority, works must commence in a meaningful way before 6 April 2024 to remain on the current legal framework.


Urban Surgery steelwork installation on a rooftop building site in London

Image: WIP 'Urban Surgery' project at Portland Industrial Dwellings, Marylebone



What are the new Dutyholder roles and responsibilities?


Regulations made under the Building Safety Act define new Dutyholders who will have specific duties in relation to ensuring that building work complies with the Building Regulations. They are key roles (whether fulfilled by individuals or organisations) that are assigned specific responsibilities at phases of the building life cycle.


The new Dutyholders being introduced under the Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 are the client (including domestic client), the principal designer and the principal contractor as well as duties on designers (including the sole or lead designer) and contractors (including sole contractor).



These responsibilities will be applicable to all construction work subject to the Building Regulations 2010, encompassing not only higher-risk buildings (HRBs). The overarching aim is to establish a more robust emphasis on regulatory compliance in the realms of design and construction, with additional stipulations pertaining to HRBs.


Dutyholders will be mandated to ascertain their competence, which includes possessing the requisite skills, knowledge, experience, and conduct, to perform the design and construction tasks they are contracted to undertake. Furthermore, they must restrict themselves to tasks that fall within the boundaries of their demonstrated competence.


Simultaneously, the client will bear the obligation of taking reasonable measures to ensure that the Dutyholders engaged in the project are indeed competent, and Dutyholders are compelled to decline engagements for work they lack the competency to execute.



What are the Client's duties in the new system?

Under the Building Safety Act 2022, clients have specific duties related to the new building control system. These duties emphasise the client's role in ensuring that building projects comply with safety regulations. Some key client duties include:

  1. Appointing Dutyholders: Clients are responsible for appointing Dutyholders for a project, including the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor, as necessary. These Dutyholders play crucial roles in overseeing and managing safety throughout the project.

  2. Ensuring Competence: Clients must confirm that the Dutyholders they appoint possess the required competence, skills, knowledge, and experience to carry out their responsibilities effectively. This includes ensuring that these professionals can meet their duties under the new regulations.

  3. Notification of Changes: If the client changes at any point after submitting a building control approval application or a building notice, the new client must notify the relevant authority. This ensures that the authority is aware of the responsible party.

  4. Information Sharing: In cases where the client is a domestic client, the departing Dutyholder is required to provide necessary information to the domestic client within five calendar days of their appointment ending. The domestic client must then pass this information to the relevant authority when appointing new Dutyholders.

  5. Monitoring and Oversight: Clients are encouraged to actively monitor and oversee the project to ensure compliance with the new building regulations. This includes cooperating with other Dutyholders, facilitating communication, and providing information to maintain safety standards.

  6. Golden Thread of Information: The client plays a role in the creation and management of the "golden thread of information," which is essential for understanding the building's design, construction, and safety features.

  7. Building Safety Charge: Clients will be responsible for implementing the building safety charge and ensuring transparency in cost allocation to leaseholders for building safety measures.

These duties place an increased level of responsibility on clients in the new building control system, emphasising their role in promoting and ensuring building safety and compliance with the Building Safety Act 2022. Clients must actively engage with professionals and authorities throughout the project to achieve these objectives.



Conclusion


In summary, the Building Safety Act (2022) has a significant impact on clients by increasing their responsibilities, potential liabilities, and costs associated with construction projects. However, it also aims to improve building safety, which can have long-term benefits for property owners and developers. Clients should closely follow the regulations and seek legal and professional advice to navigate these changes effectively, please feel free to contact us for a chat on our contact page.

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