Legislation, which includes the establishment of a new building safety regulator and regime, is expected to have significant impacts for all types of building work and the HVAC sector
The Building Safety Act has now passed into law after receiving Royal Assent, with trade associations predicting immediate implications for the work of the construction and building engineering sectors.
The proposals for the legislation were set out last year and included details of fresh powers that will be afforded to a new Building Safety Regulator for England.
Industry body BESA said the legislation was already having a “big impact” on the way the industry works, including for building engineers.
Debbie Petford, the association’s legal and commercial director, said the various provisions in the bill are expected to apply to all buildings, yet it was not fully clear exactly as yet how this would apply in practice, particularly with regards to enforcement.
One major change would be the introduction of the new building safety regulator, which is currently in the process of being established with regards to staffing and capabilities.
The regulator will oversee three principal functions. Ms Petford said these functions would include the oversight of the safety and performance of all buildings, as well as assisting and encouraging improved competence in both the engineering and building controls sectors.
The regulator will also implement a strict regulatory regime for ‘high risk’ properties that are defined under the act as buildings that are 18 metres tall or above, or more than six stories high.
Further changes are expected to be introduced to these provisions via with the anticipated passing of secondary legislation and relevant guidance over the next 18 months to ensure the new requirements are enacted across the entire industry.
BESA stated, “The act covers all work that needs to be notified under the Building Regulations.”
The legislation will also introduce ‘gateway points’ during the design, construction and completion stage of building work.
It is understood that the government expects the second and third gateways to apply at least for all high-risk buildings. These gateways require building control approval to be granted both before construction work starts and then before a property is occupied respectively as a means of upholding safety standards introduced as part of the bill.
However, BESA added that the new law, together with the secondary legislation set to follow, is expected to apply to all changes in the structure or design of any new or existing buildings with the exception of DIY work.
Another important component of the legislation that was identified by the trade association was a focus on requiring individuals to be named who will be legally accountable for choices made when planning, procuring products and services, as well as managing buildings and their systems.
BESA said, “Under the legislation, the client has responsibility for appointing competent firms, but contractors must also be honest about their ability to carry out the work they are being appointed to do. This means firms must be able to provide evidence that they were competent to complete a piece of work should there be a subsequent legal action.”
These duty holder responsibilities will apply to work on all building types, according to the government.
Other notable changes set out in the legislation will focus on monitoring and recording changes made to the design of a building due to engineering or installation work.
Any changes made during the specification of a product by a supplier will see them designated automatically as a designer under the legislation that will lead to them holding a different level of liability, BESA stated.
Ms Petford said the amendment was designed to tackle historic problems where the installation of products may have a wider impact on how a building and its other connected systems perform.
A new competence framework is also expected to be published as a further measure to reform building safety standards and their enforcement, Ms Petford added.
She said, “This will require each profession linked to construction to clearly define what is meant by competence and refresh that definition regularly to keep pace with changing professional standards.”
“This will create a vital new role for continuous professional development (CPD) and the way our industry provides evidence of competence and compliance criteria, such as the Competence Assessment Standard that underpins BESA membership.”
Another likely impact for HVAC and engineering specialists will be stricter scrutiny of the professional credentials of contractors and firms looking to work on projects at the different gateway stages of a project.
Ms Petford said, “This will be key to minimising risk and, ultimately, delivering the outcome everyone wants: Safer and better buildings.”
The Construction Products Association (CPA) said it welcomed the Building Safety Act 2022 becoming law as an example of progress to address concerns raised by Dame Judith Hackitt in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
Peter Caplehorn, CPA chief executive, said the initial legislation could have a sweeping impact on building engineering and competence.
He said, “However, as this is only the primary legislation, the secondary legislation and guidance will be crucial. We are already following closely the establishment of the National Regulator for Construction Products; this will now take us to the next step in creating a new product arena.”
“We are particularly interested in learning details about plans defects liability, as well as the regulatory framework and Building Safety Regulator, all of which will have a massive impact on industry’s culture and practices.”
Shortly before the legislation was signed into law, CIBSE announced it was launching a training course with the aim to better prepare industry for the implementation of the Building Safety Act.
CIBSE described the legislation as representing the most significant shift in safety standards and enforcement for decades that would impact all types of buildings.
It said at the time, “[The act] introduces new regulations that place duties on those who procure, plan, manage and undertake building work. The course will cover the new duty holder roles and required competencies, including requirements for senior engineers, designers, and clients to demonstrate their competence.”