The coming months are going to be challenging for anyone with an interest in building safety and regulation. We must be alert to more rapidly changing legislation and guidance, writes Andrew Mellor
It is now two months since the Building Safety Bill was published and presented to parliament by the now-former housing secretary. The bill has had its second reading in the House of Commons and is now at committee stage, where it is reviewed line by line before proposed amendments are reported and debated in the house. We are therefore likely to see further changes before it is enacted, probably in the spring of 2022.
The extent of these changes remains to be seen but, given the constant evolution of the bill over the past 12 months, including many of the definitions and associated processes, it would seem certain that there will be more changes.
The now-rebranded department for levelling up, housing & communities and the HSE continue to work on aspects of the building safety legislation that are not included or fully set out in the bill and which will be implemented via secondary legislation or formal guidance. This includes gateways two and three and the golden thread, the final requirements of which are hugely anticipated by developers and consultants to ensure that they are all fully prepared for expected implementation in 2023.
The long title for the Building Safety Bill is “A bill to make provision about the safety of people in or about buildings and the standard of buildings, to amend the Architects Act 1997, and to amend provision about complaints made to a housing ombudsman”. The bill proposes to amend the Architects Act to enable the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to monitor and review the competence of an architect throughout their career.
The ARB is currently undertaking a review of the competency requirements of architects and how this will be maintained and evidenced, so architects may therefore be taking regular competency “examinations” from 2022.
Parts of the Bill apply to all buildings and so do not be under the illusion that the new requirements only apply to taller buildings
The bill defines a higher-risk building as one which is at least 18 metres in height or has at least seven storeys and contains two or more residential units, is a care home or is a hospital. This new definition has been further developed since the issue of the draft bill and it is different to that relevant to planning gateway one, which was issued earlier in the summer. So be warned: the definition of a higher-risk building has changed over time and may well change again either before the bill is enacted or after its implementation.
The new definition includes student accommodation but not hotels and, as for care homes and hospitals, they need to meet the design and construction stage requirements of the new regime and not the occupation stage requirements. Parts of the bill apply to all buildings and so do not be under the illusion that the new requirements only apply to taller buildings; only parts three and four of six parts within the bill wholly apply to higher-risk buildings. Provisions relating to dutyholders, competency, building control authorities and construction products, for example, will apply, where relevant, to all buildings.
It is going to be a challenging period and one in which we are going to have to be alert to changing legislation and guidance
Besides tracking the progress of the Building Safety Bill, construction product regulations, industry competency requirements and government advice relating to the safety and adequacy of existing homes, we also await the forthcoming revisions to part L (ADL) and part F (ADF) of the building regulations and likely further amendments to ADB and regulation 7.
There is going to be much for us all to understand and respond to over the next 12 months and we wait surely with mixed feelings about what this means for us as individuals, for our businesses and the sector as a whole. One thing is for certain, it is going to be a challenging period and one in which we are going to have to be alert to changing legislation and guidance as it will be happening rapidly and concurrently.
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Andrew Mellor leads the development consultancy team at PRP. The practice has been advising MHCLG and conducting research around policy and building regulations.