The Building Safety Bill – the road to compliance

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UL share their expert advice on how organisations can start their compliance journey today, in line with the Building Safety Bill

The draft Building Safety Bill was first published in July 2020, and featured prominently in the Queen’s Speech; part of the Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the coming parliamentary session.

The draft bill was scrutinised by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. Its report ‘Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill’ was published on 24 November 2020 and the response from Government was published this summer.

As expected, its response was very robust, including making substantial changes to the legislation and to its operational plans since the publication of the draft Bill. Alongside the additional fire safety laws recently approved by Parliament, the Building Safety Bill outlines proposals to achieve the biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years. These are very significant and wide-reaching changes.

Unsurprisingly then, this is a worrying and confusing time for housing providers, facilities and estates managers in particular. With such complex changes in motion and still many questions unresolved, how can you begin to know whether you’ll be compliant with the new Act when the time comes?

Start your compliance journey today

The first thing to say is that there is still time. The Bill still needs to run its course through Parliament and judging by the toing and froing ahead of the ratification of the recent Fire Safety Act, this could have an extensive timetable, and even after it’s ratified there is expected to be some leeway to allow for compliance.

However, this doesn’t mean we can ignore it for now. As it is such a complex piece of legislation, and more importantly, as it focuses on improving safety, it’s important to start your compliance journey today. As the Government says in its response; “Future dutyholders should not wait to prepare for the new regime. We urge future dutyholders to start preparing for the new regime immediately. A greater focus on safety and engaging residents in buildings for which they are responsible is encouraged now.”

UL has been working to develop its knowledge and understanding of what’s expected to be contained in the new regulations. Here are some things that may help.

Everything that’s expected to be brought into force – Building Assurance Certificates, safety cases, resident engagement strategies, digital reporting, emergency plans etc – essentially form a mandatory, enhanced management system.

Only those multi-occupied residential buildings over 18 metres or 6 storeys will be in scope of the new regulations, but this may create an issue for those with large portfolios of buildings: a two-tier system of management. For example, will you decide to apply your enhanced management system only to buildings in scope, and continue with the same management for buildings under 18 metres? What happens with your buildings that may be just under that threshold? What will the residents think? What will the costs be? Is it practical to run two systems?

It’s fair to assume there will be an expectation from residents, building users, staff, investors and other stakeholders that best practice will be applied across portfolios and estates.

That could mean a lot of buildings that need to be added to the enhanced management system that are not in scope.

Ensuring conformity of the management system

Once you’ve decided where to apply your enhanced management system, the next stage is then convincing the new Building Safety Regulator of its conformity for the regulated portion of your buildings. The regulator will oversee the design and management of buildings, with a focus on ensuring the new regime for higher-risk buildings is enforced effectively and robustly. It will have the power to apply criminal sanctions to building owners who do not follow the regime.

Your accountable person will need to collate all the evidence for each building – the safety case, the resident engagement strategy, your building safety manager etc – and present that evidence to the regulator (which will be expected to be in digital format). This will be time consuming unless you get it right first time.

You will then be issued with a Building Assurance Certificate. This forms a promise to the regulator that you will go on to manage that building properly.

Good day-to-day management 

What the Building Assurance Certificate doesn’t do is to outline day-to-day management, and failures in management can still lead to safety critical incidents. This means that you must have good governance and safety management.

So how do you confirm that you are conforming to this enhanced management system?

The best way, and one way that the Government has suggested in its Conformity Assessment and Accreditation Policy, is third-party certification: accredited independent certification.

Third-party certification gives surety of compliance, provides stakeholder assurance (most importantly, for residents), allows for continual system improvements, and assures diligence and best practice to reduce risks by identifying non-conformance.

In response to this need, UL is developing the Building Safety Management (BSM) Certification Scheme, which will conform to the requirements of ISO 17021-1 2015, and which will be an independent audit process to establish that the organisation has a documented fire risk management system, taking due regard of the complexity of the specific building to which the system is to be applied.

It will also match the requirements for occupied buildings to the new Building Safety Regulations, as they are expected to be.

BSM Certification is the first of its kind to help address this regulation.

UL is looking for organisations to pilot this certification service right now, to conduct a gap analysis and to work together to meet the regulations as they emerge. The benefit will be that you also gain complimentary access to UL’s BSM service offering.

If you would like to explore working with us to be a pilot organisation, then please write to us at EU.BuildingLifeSafety@ul.com

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