Detailed records of decision-making will need to be kept for decades in retrospective change to law

The new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) is urging designers of high-rise buildings to prepare for the Building Safety Bill before it becomes law next spring.

“Building safety changes are coming and will affect everyone involved in a high-rise building project beyond its design. We urge that you act now,” said Colin Blatchford, operational policy lead for gateways and building control at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The BSR is being established within the HSE under the direction of Peter Baker.

Changes are expected to include an amendment to the Defective Premises Act 1972, which would extend the limitation period from six to 15 years after completion of a building.

Building Design columnist Andrew Mellor, who leads the development consultancy team at PRP, said that this change to limitation was “likely to impact everyone in the industry who has been involved in residential development for the last 15 years – or who will be in the future.”

“One consequence of these changes is that we will have to keep project records longer than the typical 12 years,” he said in his latest column for Building Design, published today.

The HSE has highlighted that under the bill, currently going through Parliament and expected to come into force in May, anyone involved in the design of a high-rise block – from the development of a planning application through to building regulations approval – will need to understand its intended use.

Blatchford said they must take a “proactive approach to managing building safety” from the earliest stages of the design process.

“These changes are coming. Those involved need to plan ahead through correctly identifying, taking ownership and managing the risks – ensuring key decisions are recorded throughout the process,” he said.

The reforms include a more stringent approach to the design and construction of high-rise buildings, clearer responsibilities on designers to ensure they are safe and new measures so that everyone doing design or building work is competent to carry out that work in line with Building Regulations.

There will also be a requirement to record and provide evidence of decision-making during the design process, and a need to be engaged throughout a building project, with a safety case report provided when a building is completed and occupied.

Peter Baker, who was appointed chief inspector of buildings earlier this year in the wake of the Hackitt review, said: “Designers have a strong influence on safety standards, particularly during the very early planning and design stages of a building project.

“Their decisions not only affect the safety of those carrying out the building work, but also those maintaining, using or living in a building after it is built.”

He added: “I encourage designers to act now and prepare for the more stringent regulatory regime.”

Mellor said he expected the period of responsibility to be extended back to summer 1992. He also believed the bill will alter the Building Act, enabling cases to be brought if there was a breach to the Building Regulations for a period of 15 years after the completion of a building.

There would be a knock-on effect on PI insurance, he predicted.

“It seems to me that the earlier the date of the completion of a building, the harder it will likely be to bring a claim”, he suggested, because of issues such as a lack of records.

>> Andrew Mellor: Design teams could be on hook for retrospective leaseholder claims


The Building Safety Bill is the government’s reaction to Judith Hackitt’s report into building regulation and fire safety which was commissioned following the Grenfell fire in which 72 people lost their lives.

Building Design launched its campaign Future of the Profession campaign partly as a result of the bill.