Delivering Affordable Homes & Fire Safety in Higher Risk Residential Buildings (Part Two)

In our last newsletter we discussed the first, “Transition” phase of Fire Safety management as we assist our Clients to meet the challenges of providing affordable housing while taking into consideration of the Hackett review and uncertainty over which of its recommendation will be applied to Building Regulations in the future.

Today, we will be looking at the second, “Impact” phase.

The Impact Phase is likely to cause further challenges. In October 2020, Competence Steering Group published their report, ‘Setting the Bar: a new competence regime for building a safer future.’ This report established a model for improving the competence of those working on HRRBs and driving a wider culture change within the construction industry.

Six months later, in April of this year, the Fire Safety Bill became the Fire Safety Act. This sets out the requirements for a responsible person to assess the safety of a building’s External Wall System on any building with more than two homes and introduces the requirement to assess the safety of a building’s structure and flat front entrance doors. This will require clients to chose between costly intrusive surveys to determine exactly what components make up the fabric of their building or to gather and record sufficient evidence regarding the EWS, cavity breaks, cavity barriers and fire doors during the construction phase (which will necessitate more management and co-ordination).

Martin Arnold is assisting clients in gathering this crucial information, ensuring that each building’s structure is assessed for safety now and that evidence is retained for future reference. This has only been possible through working closely with our clients, their contractors, and their other consultants to share and validate information and eliminate uncertainty.

The Building Safety Bill is expected to become an Act of Parliament later this year and is anticipated to come into effect in 2023. Uncertainty about the Act, the role of the new Building Safety Inspector, and the effect that these will have on the construction and management of HRRBs has already affected client strategies for developing homes through HRRBs.

We know that the Building Safety Act will likely introduce three phases into the design and construction process, which will require further planning, co-ordination and management by project managers. These phases will be known as Gateways, namely:

Gateway 1 – Planning & “Fire Statement”
Gateway 2 – Construction “Building Control+”
Gateway 3 – Final Certificate & “BSR Submission” & Handover to Accountable Person

The Accountable Person will be the individual or entity that has a legal responsibility for maintaining the common parts of a building. Under the Building Safety Bill, the Accountable Person will also need to be appoint a Building Safety Manager to conduct the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in HRRBs. The Building Safety Manager will then be responsible for implementing any changes to a building that are required following a building safety assessment, and act as a point of contact for residents to ensure that they remain informed.

While these roles will be responsible for maintaining the safety of a building during the occupational stage, they do not diminish the need for close collaboration, information sharing, quality control during the building’s design and development.

The responsibilities of all duty holders to ensure that an HRRB is built safely remains intrinsic and so Martin Arnold will remain dedicated to following our commitments made as signatories of the Building a Safer Future Charter to protect residents and clients alike.