In February 2017, Professor John Cole published a report into the defects that led to the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh. Just a few months later, in June 2017, the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London claimed the lives of more than 70 people. Both incidents were followed by official inquiries, and their subsequent reports made for uncomfortable reading for all those in the industry. These incidents have placed the construction industry under the microscope and highlighted the need for an urgent review of the way in which quality and safety are managed.
In July 2020, the Government published the Draft Building Safety Bill, which is designed to take forward fundamental reform of the building safety system and address the issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review, Building a Safer Future. According to the Communities Secretary, it will “deliver the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years and make residents safer in their homes.”
The CIOB has been active in driving building safety reform, and our members have been at the heart of consultations on improvements to the regulatory system. We welcomed the 53 recommendations set out in the Hackitt Review and we are pleased to see that the bill follows through with these recommendations, especially regarding the need for a more rigorous regulatory framework, a ‘golden thread’ of information, and a series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight.
However, there are several aspects of the legislation that have the potential to throw up real-world issues for the industry. Key questions must be answered, including whether there are going to be enough people to perform the new roles outlined in the bill, how these people are going to be recruited and trained, and how the industry will be insured to carry out work on high risk buildings.
The CIOB has responded to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s call for evidence for its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Building Safety Bill. Our response raised several points which must be addressed by Government if the regime is to succeed in creating a safer built environment. It will soon be available to read in full here.
For clients and the regulator to have proper assurance, there needs to be certainty that newly trained Building Safety Managers have the necessary qualifications and competencies, and we need to think about whether the current educational infrastructure is equipped to provide this.
The availability of experts to deliver training, as well as the cost of delivering a high-quality accreditation scheme, must both be considered. Timing is tight, and when training alone is likely to take at least three to four years to complete, it will be tricky for a brand new role to be created and fully operational in the time it takes the bill to be enacted.
The solution to building safety needs to be robust, and thought must be given to timescales, cost and resourcing. The success of the new regime will hinge on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) having the resources it needs to carry out its new functions as the Building Safety Regulator. We are urging the Government to be clear on the resources that will be allocated to the HSE to perform this role, and the expected timescale for the new system to become fully operational.
While the extensive regulatory change set out in the bill is welcome progress, it has implications for the availability and affordability of insurance products, particularly professional indemnity insurance for dutyholders who, under the new legislation, will hold increased levels of responsibility. Without appropriate insurance, vital work will not get done, and the built environment sector will have to work closely alongside Government to help the insurance industry adapt to this change.
Ultimately, the draft bill sets out a compelling vision for the future of the industry. However, the devil will be in the detail, and the outcome of the new building safety regime will depend on how it is able to function in practice.
The CIOB will continue to work closely with industry and Government to help ensure that the substantive detail of the legislation is fit for purpose, and we will be monitoring the bill as it moves through its pre-legislative scrutiny and parliamentary stages.
We will be producing regular email updates on the bill’s progress. You can sign up to receive these updates here.