Building Safety: it’s time to act

by BIM Academy | October 13, 2023 | 7 min read

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“You must register your high rise buildings that are occupied by residents before 30 September 2023. It is an offence to allow residents to occupy an unregistered building after 1 October 2023.”

This statement was the starting point for a conversation with a panel of experts in a virtual round table recently held by BIM Academy and hosted by Dr Melanie Robinson.  Here we give a short look into the discussion and key takeaways surrounding new secondary legislation from the Building Safety Act.

The panellists:

  • Dr Melanie Robinson, Associate, BIM Academy
  • Dr Graham Kelly, Managing Director, BIM Academy
  • Allan Binns, Safety Director, Ryder Architecture
  • Paul Nash, Director, Paul Nash Consultancy
  • Aman Sharma, CEO, Totus Digital
  • Sofie Hooper, Head of Policy and Research, Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management

Melanie began with: “Failure to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Building Safety Act in England and Wales can result in serious penalties. Now we have sight of the secondary legislation and the changes to Building Regulations, it’s time to take action.

“The construction industry is incredibly important. It’s a rich tapestry of roles, experiences and oftentimes personalities. However, our industry is undergoing the biggest change in a generation, if not more, and we need to be cognisant of what this means and for everyone involved. We now have a new building safety regime that is going to enact systemic changes on how clients procure, how designers design, how manufacturers manufacture, how contractors build and how owners operate and this is all because building safety should never be taken lightly.

“We are now past the first of October and the deadline, for when the new regime started to be enforced, and we’re starting to feel the effects of these changes. So with that in mind, I’d like to ask our panel their views on what happens next.”

Paul Nash: “Today we’re talking really about the occupied buildings regime. Primarily, the building safety act as we all know, is a huge piece of legislation. Which affects all of us involved in all buildings. And I think that’s an important thing to stress here that whilst we’re primarily going to be talking about higher risk buildings, there are aspects of the Building Safety Act applied to all buildings.

“But in the context of part four of the act, the first key milestone was the registration deadline for existing buildings – existing higher risk buildings – which passed on the first of October. So that was again, it’s important to stress that registration under the act is a is a legal requirement. Failure to actually register a high risk building under the act is now a criminal offense. But that really is just the beginning.”

Graham Kelly: “There is a real miscellany within the industry when it comes to awareness and indeed readiness on what’s required for a registration perspective – many are still playing catch up! The requirements are incredibly complex and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us that have any knowledge in this space to be pushing everyone to build awareness, because I think that’s the only way we’re going to get over this hurdle.”

Allan Binns: “The amendments to Building Regulations bring into force new duties for clients, for designers, for contractors and principal contractors, and also introduce a new principal designer role. The role is completely separate to what we already have under Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations. While the CDM role is subjectively focused on the general principles of prevention and the procurements of pre-construction information. The Building Regulations principal designer role is objectively focused upon building regulation compliance with regards to the design. These changes now apply to all building projects in England. So we are really talking about a seismic change for the industry.

Melanie Robinson: “What does what does this also mean for fire safety?”

Aman Sharma: “With respect to fire, I think what Dame Judith Hackitt and the work various others set up during the interim report developments back in 2017 and 2019, this identified that the fire community had failed miserably in being able to demonstrate structured information management with regards to compliance of regulations, and that is something that we had to change very quickly. As well as developing some sort of consensus on moving forward as an industry.

“There are very obvious ways to try and improve that I’m seeing manifest on a number of different schemes now, certainly on schemes that we and our partners support. But I think we have to recognise that a concept of cultural change is required, and that this in itself requires industry buy in. The world looks different now from October first, and the world will look different again from the first of April 2024 when the next round of changes will come into force.”

Melanie Robinson: “Sophie, in terms of what this milestone means for yourself, and particularly for your work Building Safety Alliance?”

Sofie Hooper: As Graham already said, there’s huge disparity across the sector. So while this is a milestone, I think we’re still trying to continuously revisit the elements at the very beginning where we really need to understand what is required. Keeping our members abreast of the changes that they need to meet now and in the future – and what the October first deadline really means. I think it’s a little bit more blurry than previously thought, because obviously buildings have to be registered. And then, 28 days later, the Key Building Information needs to be submitted. That is quite a huge amount of work.  Indeed there is a lot of work to get a Building Safety Case report ready.”

Melanie Robinson: “Graham, this is an area you have lot of experience in, and particularly from digital perspective. What are the next steps?”

Graham Kelly: “really important from a change management perspective, because fundamentally. clients with high risk buildings will be in lots of different starting points. And there are some basic that you have to get right, such as understanding the competency, capability and process within your organisation and the technology that then backs this up. There’s a real opportunity between now and April around getting that information right and building up towards getting a safety case correct with the right information in. If we just focus on that output and the resident engagement strategy being an output this is the best place to start.”

Melanie Robinson: “Paul, from a perspective are they starting to realise, just what the task is?

Paul Nash: “There were some parts of the industry, I should say that got it quite early on, and were very engaged. And you know, candidly, we saw a number of very good examples from the social housing sector when it came to residence engagement. And there were others, too many unfortunately, who were waiting to be told what to do. I think the message is starting to hit home. This is the beginning of a journey. Now my view, that journey started back in 2,017. If not before.

“Ultimately, this is about safer buildings. This is about ensuring that the buildings that we create, that we own that we manage are safe for those who use them because we can never have another Grenfell fire.”

Melanie Robinson: “So what we’re saying is that it’s not about collecting every single piece of digital information about your building. It’s about doing it in a pragmatic manner that forms that structured argument.”

Sofie Hooper: “The end goal that we have in mind is to enable those people to come on through the journey. A journey that enables that transition in a much easier way but making sure that for now people can at least give the information that they need to give to the building safety regulator.

The discussion continues when our experts move on to the Golden Thread and the process of collating information digitally. What the secondary legislation means in greater details and the next big milestone ion April 2024.

Watch and listen to the full conversation now after it was streamed live on LinkedIn on Wednesday 11 October 2023: Building Safety: it’s time to act.