Jane Embury welcomes support for draft building safety legislation.
As a company involved in fire safety, we’ve welcomed the draft Building Safety Bill. It will finally make building safety a legally-binding reality.
The draft Bill aims to address issues of safety that followed the independent review by Dame Judith Hackitt. Her 2018 report, Building a Safer Future, followed a comprehensive review of the building industry.
A few days ago, an influential group of MPs also welcomed its publication.
However, the report from the Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee warns that the draft Bill lacks detail on the new building safety regime.
The draft Bill aims to fix building and fire safety deficiencies following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
A principal element in the Bill is to establish a new Building Safety Regulator.
The Committee said that it was “concerned about some of its provisions” and a “lack of detail.”
It recommends that government either includes that detail in the Bill, or publishes secondary legislation alongside it.
The Committee would also like to see a clearer timetable, giving the industry time to comply with its provisions.
Another important recommendation is to establish national third-party accreditation and registration. This would apply to all professionals working from the design through to construction of higher-risk buildings.
This is a proposal we particularly endorse as the Hackitt report saw that there was no formal process for assuring people’s competence. We’ve seen many instances of, for example, badly-fitted fire doors.
The Committee says that “the final Bill should provide for a robust system of third-party accreditation and registration for design and construction professionals. We can think of few measures that will do more to improve building safety.”
The Bill’s provisions will apply to “higher-risk” buildings, defined as any building over 18 meres or six storeys high.
The Committee, while accepting this definition, says that height should not be the only measure. It says that, in future, it should include other risk factors. This would cover the vulnerability of residents and their ability to evacuate.
The draft Building Safety Bill was published in July 2020, would also establish the post of duty holder, with legal responsibility for building and fire safety.
The duty holder on each higher risk building would be responsible for managing the golden thread of safety from the design team to contractors and sub-contractors.
A failure to take that responsibility seriously could lead to criminal sanction, up to ten years after the completion of that building.
The draft Bill is something that is overdue. As we’ve observed with the Grenfell inquiry, the trail of responsibility can be opaque or muddled.
If the draft Bill becomes law, as it surely will, it will ensure that building safety is given the absolute priority that it deserves.
Not before time.