Regulatory system ‘needs more work’ to assure public safety

The call-out follows the launch of the government’s “Building a Safer Future” consultation in June.

Grenfell 012

Responding to the government’s Building a Safer Future consultation launched in June, the Royal Institute of British Architects has called for further development to the regulatory system to assure public safety.

The consultation, which proposes reforms to England’s current building safety regulations, builds on the recommendations from Dame Judith Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

As reported by 24housing, the consultation coincided with the launch of a Building Safety Charter, backed by Kit Malthouse in a call to action to raise the bar for building safety.

The proposals span five broad areas:

  • The scope of the new regime
  • The concept of dutyholders, who have clear responsibilities throughout a building’s design, construction, and occupation
  • Giving residents a stronger voice in the system and ensuring their concerns are never ignored
  • Plans for a new building safety regulator to provide oversight of the new building safety regulatory regime
  • Strengthened enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime

Following the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, RIBA called for a complete overhaul of the building regulations and welcomed many of the proposals, but raised concerns that England still “lags behind” other countries, including Wales and Scotland, in putting in place baseline regulatory standards to ensure that high-rise and other higher risk buildings are safe for the public.

The institute has further called on government to:

  • Widen the scope of the new regulatory system to apply to non-residential buildings – the new building regulatory system should apply to other higher risk non-residential buildings at any height
  • Make significant changes to the responsibilities for all dutyholders – dutyholders based on the Construction (Design and Management) regulations model are essential;
  • However, the duties proposed are not clearly defined and are not currently workable as set out in the consultation, particularly on design and build projects
  • Designate the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) to oversee enhanced competence requirements of architects – as regulator, the ARB should be responsible for the accreditation and licensing of architectural qualifying bodies, who will hold registers for competent architects to work on buildings in scope of the proposed regulatory framework
  • Ensure all technical guidance issued to industry is improved by the new Building Safety Regulator – this should include setting baseline prescriptive requirements for fire safety and reviewing all relevant British Standards guidance documents

Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, said: “Although a step in the right direction, the government’s proposals do not go far enough to protect the public and more work is needed, particularly to more clearly define the statutory duties of all involved in the industry.

“There have been many failings in England’s building safety regulations, exposed by the Grenfell tragedy two years ago, but we hope the government will act on their commitment post Grenfell to ensure residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.”

The Local Authority Building Control has also since welcomed government proposals, but emphasises that the success of any new regime will “heavily depend” on how the Regulator is constituted.

Paul Everall, LABC’s CEO, said: “We are very disappointed about the lack of transparency in the consultation document on the Building Safety Regulator.

“In her report, Dame Judith Hackitt proposed setting up a Joint Competent Authority (JCA) involving local authority building control, the fire service, the HSE, and the LGA as a new regulator for buildings covered by the new regime.

“More than two years after the Grenfell disaster, the industry is still waiting for details from the MHCLG of how the new regulator is to work. This is despite the government still saying it is adopting all of Dame Judith’s recommendations.”

He added: “LABC has contributed thousands of hours assisting the Ministry in developing and implementing Dame Judith’s recommendations and were given repeated assurances that the ‘Hackitt’ model was going to be introduced.

“We remain committed to all 53 recommendations of the Hackitt review and remain ready to assist the government in any way we can to develop and implement all of her recommendations – including a JCA regulatory model.”

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