The new Building Safety Regulator: what you need to know
The Building Safety Act promises a major shift for the UK’s construction and real estate industries, providing additional protections for residents and more accountability from those who construct, own and manage buildings.
One of the biggest changes is its emphasis on data gathering and management from building owners and managers.
By October 2023 building owners must have a building safety regime in place to manage fire and structural safety risks for each building. But what will that entail?
- Building Safety Cases
- Making sense of building safety information
- The medium-rise Building Safety Fund
- Get the right support
Building Safety Cases
In April 2023 the Government opened an online portal for registration of high-rise residential building set up by the newly established Building Safety Regulator (BSR) operated by the HSE.
Registration must take place before 1 October 2023. Once registered a Building Safety Case will be required of building owners and ‘accountable persons’ for each building and must be submitted to the BSR to secure a Building Assessment Certificate. Failure to register an occupied higher-risk building and to secure a Building Assessment Certificate will be a criminal offence, and new build higher-risk buildings will need to be registered before they can be occupied.
It’s a welcome step towards greater industry transparency, and reassurance for occupants of high-rise buildings that major fire and structural hazards are understood and are being actively managed to control those risks. It also lays the groundwork for building safety certification which rolls out from April 2024 and the new Building Safety Case regime for new and existing buildings – adding to the so called ‘Golden Thread’.
Some building owners are already working to manage their response and get ahead of a predicted clamour for support in registering these cases. However, given the importance of safety certification, TFT foresees high demand and potential bottlenecks similar to those which frustrated many Building Safety Fund applications.
Making sense of building safety information
The additional challenge in this case is that across the 12,500 or so tall buildings in the UK, there is a great deal of information to distil into clear building safety case reports. In many cases information is either not available, out of date or not relevant. The process of reviewing existing information can be time consuming – there could be thousands of building documents to review, and often only a few relevant documents within them or new information might need to be commissioned. The resultant further investigations might identify new risks.
After the data is gathered, the next step involves further specialist input from structural engineers and fire engineers to summarise all the information that is relevant to manage the risks of fire spread and the building’s structural safety to complete and provide a safety case report for submission.
Given the scale of the challenge and its importance for building safety confidence, it’s essential for owners of tall buildings to act swiftly – to make sense of your existing documentation, and to fill in the gaps – so as not to delay certification and face possible criminal charges as a result.
The medium-rise Building Safety Fund
November 2022 saw the announcement of a Medium-Rise Cladding Scheme, a £3 billion fund for fire safety remediation covering buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height. The scheme will roll out across England in 2023, opening up funds for medium-rise buildings to be improved similarly to those above 18 metres, which are eligible for the Building Safety Fund as launched in 2020.
However, the fund for high-rise buildings was quickly overwhelmed with demand, which could be a risk as we face an even greater number of applications for the medium-rise fund.
Clients with significant building portfolios are already working with us to prepare and manage prospective fund applications, ahead of a predicted clamour for registrations. We foresee high demand and potential bottlenecks similar to those which frustrated many Building Safety Fund applications.
We are here to help
TFT has overseen over £200m worth of fire safety analysis and remediation works nation-wide, with specialist consultancy and project management. If you need, or suspect you need, support on addressing unsafe buildings in your portfolio, we are here to help.
We manage the process of identifying and remedying these issues, which can be challenging work alongside many stakeholders and interested parties, including landlords, tenants, adjoining owners, statutory authorities, funders, local authority planners, building control, and the fire service to name but a few!
And this isn’t just about combustible cladding – we also address a variety of internal issues such as fire compartmentation or design deficiencies in the original construction which is not uncommon.