What does the Building Safety Act mean for you?


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Phil Bryant, Amthal Head of Strategic Accounts, explores the changes in fire safety, and new requirements for positive compliance across the supply chain and the sector as a whole.

The Building Safety Act was touted as “one of the most anticipated pieces of legislation in recent years” and with good reason following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire that kick started this legislation.

On resigning from Government, Lord Greenhalgh expressed pride at his work towards ensuring Grenfell “never happens again” and for the passing of the Building Safety Act 2022 into legislation.

Greenhalgh said: “[The Building Safety Act] has brought about the biggest changes to building safety legislation in our history.”

Setting the Scene

There is no doubt that the Building Safety Act will have a substantial impact on everyone from developers, building owners, architects and product manufacturers, through to landlords and tenants in respect of developments at least five storeys or 11 metres in height. 

It is also likely to impact on the whole supply chain as we come to terms with the new requirements for compliance, right from initial design and specification through the whole life cycle of a building, especially when it comes to fire safety. Also worth noting that the Act applies to all buildings, not just residential, although, it does contain more stringent measures that focus on “higher-risk buildings”.

This applies to those at least seven storeys or 18 metres in height, which have minimum two residential units (or bedrooms for student accommodation). It also includes care homes or hospitals.

However, the Act is not all it appears. To be effective, much of it requires secondary legislation which the government says will be put in place over the next six to 18 months.

An example of this is the Fire Safety Act 2022, which came into force on 16 May and demonstrates that there is a focus and drive in parliament to ‘get the job done’.

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 also now makes it a requirement in law for responsible persons of high-rise blocks of flats to provide information to Fire and Rescue Services to assist them to plan and, if needed, provide an effective operational response. This is in the form of up to date electronic building floor plans.

The regulations sit alongside the Building Safety Act amendments to the Fire Safety Order. They aim together to improve fire safety outcomes designed to protect the public from the risk of fire. And this is by better supporting compliance and effective enforcement in all regulated premises.

The Golden Thread

The aim of the Building Safety Act is to create “lasting generational change,” and this is especially when it comes to fire safety. It is designed to change behaviours, improve competencies and enhance communication at every stage of a works programme, whether new build or refurbishment.

At the core of this objective is the desire for the ‘golden thread’ of information, which disrupts the current norms of silo working and demands a more, structured and formalised collaborative approach to the delivery and maintenance of in-scope buildings. After construction and during the lifecycle of each building, this new regime will also require the maintenance of all information necessary for identifying, managing and mitigating building safety risks associated with fire and structural collapse.  

By working together in partnership from the beginning of the project, compliance with the required golden thread of information can be achieved. This is to store, manage, maintain and retain information. 

Documentation can be created that is “understandable,” “accountable,” “relevant” and “consistent,” as outlined in the conditions of the act, when it comes to building and fire safety. It can all work together to reduce risk and improve value and should be especially accessible if required by emergency services.

Here, fire safety should be considered in the broadest perspective. Whilst much of Grenfell has considered the façade cladding and insulation materials, many more technical aspects include the application of fire compartments within the building, fire-resistant materials and an escape and emergency plan, including review of all fire doors.

Next Steps

Building a safer future necessitates driving a right culture right from the outset, disrupting the current norms of silo working. It demands the creation of a structured and formalised working environment that encourages collaborative interfaces and relationships between team members. 

And yet, it is clear that there is still some work to be done in disseminating the detail and building an understanding of how compliance with the law can be met. A recent survey found that nearly a third of those responsible for fire door safety say they do not fully understand their responsibilities under the Building Safety Act.

The research, carried out by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Fire Door Alliance, identified a lack of understanding of fire safety-related responsibilities under the new legislation. Almost one in ten (8%) were unaware of how new laws will affect how fire doors are specified. In line with Lord Greenhalgh’s suggestion that the industry “act quickly to update their practices in line with these new rules,” this must be an urgent priority for those responsible for fire safety.”

Amthal is aware of the extra pressures placed on Responsible Persons, who are already stretched when it comes to budget, resources and time constraints. Given that building owners have already got to comply with the Fire Safety Act requirements including PAS9980 appraisals, it may seem difficult to understand how all of these can be promptly achieved.

This is where working with dedicated partners can help, with the use of accredited engineers that can review a property and conduct a full risk assessment, ensuring every aspect of a fire safety plan is considered. 

This includes the fire doors and emergency escape routes, which all now must be tested regularly alongside weekly regimes.

In summary, there is no doubt the Building Safety Act 2022, coming so soon after the Fire Safety Act, introduces epic pieces of legislation in both scale and effect. Together with a raft of new measures, they really do represent a sea change for the construction sector and those involved with high rise and high risk buildings. 

What the Building Safety Act does is bring to the forefront all the elements that must be considered in building safety, including those to prevent fire and save lives. It also highlights the key importance of accountability during the life cycle of a building and the essential need for clear communication and the ‘golden thread’ of information being easily accessible by all parties.

This is still an evolving issue, and the Building Safety Act is only the beginning of an enormous challenge, where transformation is no longer an aspiration, but a requirement if we are to avoid at all costs a repeat of the Grenfell tragedy. There is much for the industry to understand and do with regard to new and emerging legislation, but the wave of requirements is getting bigger and it will only continue to grow over the next 12 to 18 months.

If we are to successfully ride this wave, then we must all continue to pay attention to the emerging legislation announcements and begin to prepare as soon as possible to meet the many requirements that are coming for new and existing buildings.

Independently owned, Amthal Fire & Security is dedicated to satisfying end user needs for security safety and convenience offering design, installation, service and remote monitoring of advanced electronic fire & security solutions, including intruder, Fire, Access and CCTV systems. 

Amthal Fire & Security is accredited by the Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) and British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE.) For more information, please visit www.amthal.co.uk.

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