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Building Safety Act: What you need to know ahead of 1st October

Minett0008From 1st October 2023 a number of new regulations will come into force under the Building Safety Act 2022, and they don't only affect high-risk buildings. Alex Minett, Head of Global New Markets at CHAS highlights some of the key changes.

The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 covers a series of new reforms. However, while these reforms might seem more heavily weighted towards ensuring the safety of higher-risk buildings (HRBs), the new regime introduces fresh terminology, roles, responsibilities and other criteria that are important to understand for all projects that fall under building regulations.

Roles and responsibilities of the dutyholder

One of the most important changes is the dutyholder regime detailed under part 2a of the Building Regulations. It is designed to regulate and hold to account, those who are responsible for planning and executing the construction of new buildings and, the renovation of existing ones.

Under the regulations, the dutyholder is defined as the client (the person who is responsible for commissioning the building work), the principal designer and the principal contractor. Where there is more than one designer or contractor on a project, there must be an agreement and declaration in writing as to which holds the role of 'principal'.

The regime comes with competence requirements for all dutyholders. They need the right skills, knowledge, and experience for the design and construction work they're responsible for. Additionally, they must restrict themselves only to work that falls within the scope of their competence. These competency requirements extend to all construction projects where building regulations apply.

Under the regime, dutyholders will also need to ensure that there are processes in place to plan, oversee and regularly inspect design and building work to ensure compliance with building regulations. They must also cooperate with each other in coordinating work and providing information to the other duty holders.

What's more, dutyholders will be obligated to report to the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), any circumstances that may pose a risk of fatal or severe injuries. These disclosures come with whistle-blower guarantees, which protects those reporting concerns, shielding them from criminal prosecution. Neglecting this obligation could result in criminal charges.

Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs) and Building Control

In addition to the above, an extra layer of legislation applies to the construction and renovation of higher-risk buildings (HRBs), which are currently defined as:

  • Buildings at least 18 metres in height or with at least seven storeys; and
  • Contains at least two residential units. 

For HRBs, the legislation obligates clients to keep a written record of the steps they have taken in consideration of the appointment of the principal designer and principal contractor. This includes looking at the history of past misconduct or whether they have recieved a serious sanction within the preceding five years to date of the appointment.

Furthermore, a series of 'gateways' have been introduced for HRB construction to strengthen regulatory oversight. Before any building work on an HRB commences, a building control approval application must be made to the overall authority, in this case, the BSR. Known as Gateway 2, key documentation must be provided to support the application, including a competency declaration and building regulations compliance statement. Once approved, any major changes to the design will require a change control notice made to the BSR. For further information on the new gateways and rules, refer to the HSE's guide Building Control: An overview of the new regime.

How to prepare

While these are some of the more headline changes to the regulations, there is more to absorb ahead of 1st October. For example, the provision of information around fire safety and proposals on scheduling and timelines. The onus is therefore on all those involved to ensure they read and understand how the legislation might affect them.

It's worth remembering that many in the industry will already have best practice processes to meet compliance with the new legislation. However, now is a good time to review and update policies, procedures and training with the new regulations in mind, paying particular attention to limits of competence.

For further information visit www.chas.co.uk