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Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill (2020)

The IET’s responded to the call for evidence by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee with regards to the ‘Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill‘.

 

At the IET, we welcome the Government’s commitment to safety, demonstrated by the Fire Safety and Building Safety Bills. 

The key points that we raised are given below:

  • The draft Bill supports residents’ safety and greater empowerment in Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs). The Bill aims to create a culture of quality in the built environment industry, with accountability and competence playing key roles. However, the lack of mandatory contextual competence and professional registration in the Bill may lead to inconsistent rigour in delivery and cost-cutting. These will increase safety risks.
  • Positive features include the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) role, the competence National Standards, the 3 Dutyholders, key accountability remits, the Gateway system and the new Homes Ombudsman. Funding for these roles and complexity around ownership models need resolving. In due course, we believe the regulatory system should encompass all communal buildings to ensure consistent safety standards. The scoping of HRBs (18 m height with residents in occupation) is currently too narrow.
  • The existence of Accountable Persons throughout a building lifecycle will improve the ownership and effectiveness of safety actions. A user-friendly digital stakeholder map and safety golden thread, available to key parties, is essential in supporting understanding and timely delivery.
  • A Residents’ Panel with direct links to the BSR will help to voice key safety concerns. though the management of technical issues and the effectiveness of communications channels remain unclear.
  • The principle of a new building safety charge is fair, though the definition of ‘reasonable’ charges is unclear. Charges that are too low may reduce work standards, with detrimental safety impacts.
  • There should be mandatory testing of relevant products together to ensure conformity to standards as a unit. Real-world tests should be enforced. Robust supplier chain assurance and greater use of product Declarations of Performance are key to ensuring confidence in compliance.
  • We agree that the BSR should come under the HSE. We suggest the BSR is funded through the Government – at least until a robust ‘fee for intervention’ type scheme was in place.
  • The Bill should be flexible enough to encompass wider policy obligations (especially ‘net zero’), future industry developments, process adaptations, and an expansion of the scope of buildings covered. Regulation via safety case reports and the requirement for sprinkler systems is appropriate.