Tags: BSR, safety

Building Safety Regulator offers flexibility in design approvals for high-rise blocks

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New approach to building control approvals unveiled

The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) has introduced a nuanced stance on the approval process for designs of high-rise residential buildings, ahead of new regulations set to be implemented in April.

Under these forthcoming rules, the necessity for complete designs at the gateway two stage — a critical juncture replacing the current plan deposit phase — has been reassessed.

Neil Hope-Collins, the Operational Policy Lead for the Higher-Risk Building Control Authority at the BSR, during a webinar, clarified that not all aspects of a building’s design need to be finalised to gain approval.

He stated: “There will legitimately be parts of the design where it is not reasonable to expect the full detail at the outset.”

This adjustment aims to accommodate the evolving nature of building projects, acknowledging that certain details may only be finalised closer to construction due to changes in standards, contractors, or technology.

Industry reactions to the regulator’s clarification

The BSR’s updated guidance has elicited mixed responses from the construction and housing sectors.

Adam Hopkins, a Senior Technical Manager at Peabody, expressed surprise over the regulator’s stance, suggesting it might contrast with previous understandings within the industry.

“This appears to contrast with the past months and years, I’ve participated in and observed conversations between professionals where the debate is about how all this work will get completed before gateway two,” he said.

In contrast, Iain McIlwee, Chief Executive of the Finishes and Interiors Sector, viewed the comments as a potential dilution of regulatory standards, while Jon Pagan, Head of Technical at Kiwa, highlighted the ongoing issues regarding clarity within the new gateway process.

Nevertheless, Andrew Mellor, partner at architect PRP, welcomed the BSR’s approach, calling it “the only sensible approach and will be very welcomed by the industry.”

Building Safety Regulator maintains consistency in its messaging

Despite the varied industry feedback, a spokesperson for the BSR reiterated the regulator’s consistent position on allowing for design approvals with certain requirements.

The spokesperson clarified that the aim has always been to ensure designs, once constructed, comply with all relevant building regulations, even if some details are not finalised at the initial application stage.

“The consistent message from BSR has been that there should be sufficient detail for the regulator to be assured that if built the design will satisfy all applicable requirements of building regulations,” the spokesperson said.

This approach acknowledges the practicalities of design development, especially for projects classified as “higher-risk buildings,” which are at least 18m tall or comprise at least seven storeys with two residential units.

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