Time to build a safer future

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

The government recently launched its consultation to seek views on proposals for a new system of building and fire safety; commenced by a ministerial statement by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for MHCLG, a couple of weeks before the two-year anniversary of the fire at Grenfell Tower.

The consultation – ‘Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system’ – outlines how the government proposes to take forward meaningful legislative reform.

The scope currently applies to all new and existing multi-occupied residential buildings of 18m or higher. However, the proposal is that other building types will be included over time.

The government aims to give residents a stronger voice in ensuring their concerns are heard and acted on. Residents will be given better information on their buildings so that they can participate in decisions about safety, as well as providing clear and quick routes of escalation for their concerns if things go wrong.

A duty holder regime will be implemented so that at each stage of a building’s life (through design, construction and occupation, including those buildings already occupied) there will be clearly identified people who are directly accountable for safety. Clear accountability will be established on who owns building risks, and clear responsibilities for managing the risks to ensure buildings are safe for residents.

These responsibilities, which include creating and maintaining the digital records of a building and producing a safety case that will be approved by the new building safety regulator prior to issuing a building safety certificate, will be set out in law.

The consultation outlines plans for the building safety regulator to provide oversight of the new building safety regulatory regime and oversee the wider building and regulatory system. There is also a proposed strengthening for oversight and regulation of construction products.

All of these changes will be underpinned by strengthened enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime.

The precursor to this was the findings from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt. Dame Judith concluded that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings was ‘not fit for purpose’ and had lost public confidence and residents’ trust.

The aim from government is to drive real culture change across the industry, although such change across a complex industry will take considerable time.

The consultation will close on July 31, and the government has committed to continual engagement with residents, industry and the wider sector as it develops these proposals further.

How this evolves into the rest of construction could have a major impact on our industry, however, for now it is restricted to high rise buildings. Government is trying to increase the rate of progress and is keen to ensure that the public knows all that is being done to protect lives throughout the UK.