CIOB Submits Evidence to the Building Safety Bill Public Bill Committee
As Autumn turns to Winter the CIOB Policy and Public Affairs team has been reflecting on some of the work that we have been doing to improve standards in the built environment.
One of our primary workstreams throughout September and October has been in compiling written evidence to submit to the Building Safety Bill Public Bill Committee who are scrutinising the Building Safety Bill (BSB) and suggesting amendments. With the Committee stage concluded we thought it would be useful to provide a summary of our evidence for CIOB members.
In our evidence we focused on key areas of the Bill which we felt needed to be clarified further. These included the scope of the Bill, the resourcing available to fulfil the new roles and the crucial ‘golden thread’, amongst others. A summary of key points included in each section can be found below:
Intentions and scope
- We remain satisfied that the BSB follows through on the key recommendations made in the Building a Safer Future report, particularly those calling for a new and more rigorous regulatory framework and a series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight. We believe that the Bill sets out a compelling vision for the future of the industry. However, the devil will be in the detail and the success of the new regime is heavily dependent on how the new Building Safety Regulator is constituted and how it operates.
- While we support a risk-based approach to the implementation of the new building safety regime, we also acknowledge the practical difficulties that will come with implementation. We understand the decision that starts at the narrower definitions, but which is capable of being extended regularly through revisions to secondary legislation, after suitable reviews, to bring a much wider range of buildings into scope of the enhanced regulatory regime; notably schools and all other buildings in which vulnerable people will sleep. To address these concerns, we recommend the publication of an implementation programme indicating the milestones for additional buildings to be brought into scope and by when.
Design and construction
- The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee in its pre-legislative scrutiny of the BSB rightly highlighted the Construction Industry Council’s (CIC), point that the dutyholder roles in the new regulatory regime are the same as those identified in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2015, however the responsibilities identified for each role are significantly different. The requirements for the proposed principal designer and principal contractor roles under the draft BSB require different competences and skills to those required under CDM and the doubling-up of these dutyholder responsibilities will require careful consideration.
- We are pleased to see that the industry has received sight of the competence requirements for the role of the Principal Contractor. As it is the intention that a Principal Contractor will be required on all building works (in England) where the Building Regulations apply and not just High Risk Residential Buildings, this role will be extensive in both reach and impact. However, the draft Publicly Available Specification (PAS) confirms that the requirements that are specific to the principal contractor role under CDM Regulations 2015 are separate to those required under the BSB. This is a concern as the implications are that more than one principal contractor will be required on projects that need to meet both standards. Given there is already a significant skills shortage in the industry for building control professionals, this could further be exacerbated if the two roles are not combined.
Timescales and resourcing
- Ultimately, while the BSB is a welcome and necessary response to tragic failings in building safety and quality, the solution going forward must be robust. Key questions around timescales and cost must be considered, including the length of time it will take for developers to get approval from the new regulator at the proposed gateways and the impact this will have, as well as the cost of applications to the regulator and who will pay them.
Role of the Health and Safety Executive
- One of our primary concerns is whether the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is adequately resourced to undertake the functions of the new Building Safety Regulator. It is crucial to the success of the BSR role that the HSE is organised and resourced to ensure proper enforcement. To assure the wider industry that HSE will be able to perform the roles allocated to them as the BSR we urge Government to provide an indicative resource plan that shows how further funding will be structured as different aspects of the Bill come into force.
- We are concerned that, while the Bill places emphasis on early life dutyholders to pay for any remediation work necessary to secure the safety of a building, there are still costs that may be levied against leaseholders, causing further financial risk.
Competencies and training
- In order for both clients and the regulator to have assurance of the safety of buildings, they will need to be confident that newly trained Building Safety Managers (BSM) have the necessary qualifications and competencies, and thought must be given to whether the current educational infrastructure is adequate. A key challenge will be the availability of experts to deliver BSM training, and the cost of implementing and delivering an accreditation scheme taught by highly qualified professionals. It will be necessary to continue to push the industry to understand that it is more difficult, time consuming and expensive to achieve competency, and that qualifications alone will not be enough to improve building safety.
- The Bill sets out regulations about how information and documents must be stored as part of the golden thread. However, it gives no indication on the type of document that should be stored or retained. Further clarity on what information is required is critical.
- The gateway process will require the industry to produce detailed planning applications that contain key information about how a scheme meets fire safety requirements. Whilst this is encouraged, it is necessary that Government is clear with the level of information that will be needed by the BSR. This process will be time consuming and cost intensive in its early stages as the industry adapts to the new way of working. It is currently unclear how long it may take for each of the gateway criteria to be met which is generating further uncertainty from many areas of the construction industry. It would therefore be helpful for Government to produce indicative timelines for each gateway so that these can be factored into proposed development programmes to ensure the system operates efficiently and as intended at the outset.
- While the extensive programme of regulatory change set out in the Bill is welcome, we are concerned about the implications of this change for the availability and affordability of insurance products, and particularly professional indemnity insurance for dutyholders who will hold increased levels of responsibility under the proposed legislation. Construction work will be unable to go ahead unless contractors are able to obtain affordable cover, and thought must be given to how the insurance industry can adapt to changes set out in the Bill.
Our submission, in full, can be accessed here. CIOB will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill and will report on any changes or amendments through our Building Safety Newsletter which you can sign-up for here.