Jane Embury looks at proposed new government legislation
The UK government published the long-awaited Building Safety Bill this week.
It’s expected that its passage through parliament will take at least nine months.
The government says that the Bill’s provisions for buildings over 18 metres will all come into force in about 18 months from now.
These far-reaching provisions will help shape the future of construction by giving a new dimension to fire and building safety.
Once again codifying by catastrophe, the Bill comes as a response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, which claimed 72 lives. We’ve welcomed the Bill as it will take building and fire safety several steps forward.
A key provision in the Bill is the appointment of a duty holder to manage a building’s design and construction. That responsibility covers both main contractors and sub-contractors.
As we’ve said, and as the Grenfell inquiry has found, the construction of a complex building can mean proper accountability for fire safety becoming lost.
Now, the duty holder will have legal responsibility for fire and building safety. For up to ten years after a building’s completion or refurbishment.
Giving that aspect of the Bill real teeth, a failure to carry out that responsibility could lead to criminal charges being brought.
There will also be an easier investigative pathway, with a requirement to create, hold and maintain all building and fire safety information.
The Bill has many other provisions, including the regulation of construction products. That’s important because a product or system that may be safe in one context could be inappropriate in another.
The Bill is a milestone in building safety. The Construction Industry Council has said that it’s a pivotal moment in the history of UK construction.
However, we believe that the Bill is a wake-up call to everyone in the building industry, not just in high-rise residential building.
Over the years, we’ve seen many examples of badly-fitted fire-rated systems, often by fabricators lacking in specialist skills.
We understand that building safety is a complex and multi-disciplinary issue. It starts with the right product or system being installed by qualified people.
The Building Safety Bill, we hope, we lead to a change of safety culture in some sections of the building industry.
That, surely, is something we would all welcome.