Getting to grips with the Building Safety Bill

Six top tips to help housing providers prepare for the biggest changes to construction safety practices for a generation


Image: Istock

Nigel Wiles

Asset Management Specialist

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced back in January 2020 that the Building Safety Bill will “deliver the biggest change in building safety for a generation”. Preparing the organisation for the changes that will soon be required should be a priority for housing provider boards and executive teams in 2021.

The long-expected Building Safety Bill was published in draft form on the 20 July 2020 and is currently making its passage through parliament, with the expectation that it will become law later this year.

There are several challenges for those preparing their organisation for the expected changes in regulation. We do not have all the details in the draft Bill, as these will be contained in the regulations that will follow. Until then, we must work with the framework provided. In addition, there are no details on how the new regime will be implemented, or what the transitional arrangements will be.

Preparing for change

Even with these shortcomings there is plenty that can be done by housing providers to prepare:

1. Board awareness

Ensure your board is fully aware of the details contained within the Building Safety Bill. Also how these align with the resident safety requirements in the Social Housing White Paper and the new National Housing Federation Code of Governance. Deliver training for your board on their individual responsibilities under the new regime and also those of the organisation as a whole.

2. Review business plans

Review your maintenance and stock investment plans. Check that you have made the necessary financial provision not only for the building remediation and fire improvement works that you are planning, but also to support the organisational changes required and activities prescribed within the Bill.

3. Review buildings and data

Review and assess your property portfolio. Identify the buildings that will be within the scope of the new regulations and prioritise these for inspection. Review all your existing data sources, making sure they are accurate and identify any gaps where additional information is required.

Good-quality, accurate and reliable data is the key to developing a satisfactory Building Safety Case. Remember, it will be the Accountable Person in your organisation that will be signing the Safety Case Report for issue to the regulator.

“We do not have all the details in the draft Bill, as these will be contained in the regulations that will follow. Until then, we must work with the framework provided”

4. Resource your asset management teams

The assumption here is that it will be your asset teams that are going to be leading this work. This may not be the case in your organisation, but you need to plan now for providing additional resources to deliver the new requirements. Among other things, this will include an assessment of skills and competencies currently within the organisation; identification of any skills gaps that need to be addressed through training and/or recruitment; and an assessment or review of current staffing structures to support the work.

5. Development

Now is the time to review and amend Employer’s Requirements to ensure that the data requirements are met on new buildings. The ‘golden thread’ of information is clearly stipulated in the new approach, new gateway stages must be incorporated, and building handover information should be carefully considered. If your organisation does not currently have a Building Information Modelling (BIM) process, now would be a good time to consider this as an option.

6. Resident voice

Your organisation will already have processes in place and be experienced in resident and leaseholder communication. It would be unwise to assume that the current arrangements will be sufficient without checking that your approach delivers the following:

  • Communication of critical building safety information to residents, taking account of diverse needs.
  • A mechanism to ensure that residents who wish to can access more detailed building safety information.
  • Involvement of residents in decision-making and the development of resident engagement strategies.
  • A process to ensure that resident safety concerns are listened to, recorded, and that robust systems are in place to respond.
  • Residents being made aware of their role in ensuring their own safety and that of their neighbours.

Change is coming on building safety, but, with the right steps taken now, housing providers can ensure they are prepared for the new normal.

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