Winter Newsletter 2020

The Impact of the Building Safety Regulator on Tall Buildings

There has been much written and discussed in the last 3 months since the Draft Safety Bill was published by Government with one of the key proposals being the introduction of a new Building Safety Regulator role for tall buildings.

In this article, we examine the role of the Building Safety Regulator [BSR] and how this might affect the way clients design, procure & manage their tall buildings.

A key part of the Bill is the establishment of the BSR, from within the HSE to enforce the key reforms in the Regulations proposed. The Regulator will have three important roles to fulfil:

Firstly, implement the more stringent regime for higher risk buildings. This will mean that the BSR will act as the Building Control Authority for all higher risk buildings and they will oversee and enforce the new regime for occupation of higher risk buildings.

Secondly, they will be responsible for overseeing the safety and performance of all buildings. They will oversee the performance of all Building Control Authorities and approved inspectors and will have the powers to impose sanctions upon them for poor performance. They will also advise on changing risks and standards in buildings and advise on changes to regulation to meet this.

Thirdly, they will assist and encourage competence throughout the built environment industry by leading on research and analysis and they will establish a unified Building Control profession with registration across both public and private sectors.

The BSR will clearly have a wide reaching authority, but clearly their role of implementing a more stringent regime on higher buildings in design and construction, based on the principles of Hackitt’s Golden Thread, is going to fundamentally change the way clients design, procure and construct tall buildings.

Gateway One: Information will need to be submitted to the Local Planning Authority alongside the planning application. This information must demonstrate that fire safety requirements which impact on planning considerations have been addressed at an early stage and incorporated into the proposals. This information will take the form of a Fire Statement.

Gateway Two: This stage occurs before construction begins at the current ‘deposit of full plans’ stage under the Building Regulations 2010. Providing a ‘hard stop’, construction cannot begin until the BSR is satisfied that the design meets the functional requirements of the Building Regulations and does not contain any unrealistic safety management expectations.

Gateway Three: This stage occurs before occupation of the building at the final completion certificate/final notice stage under the Building Regulations. At this point all prescribed documents and information (the Golden Thread) must be handed over to the Accountable Person. Dutyholders will be required to submit to the Building Safety Regulator prescribed documents and information on the final, as-built building.

Clients need to be aware that changes are not just coming in the design and construction phase, but throughout the lifecycle of a tall building too. There are new duty holders and responsibilities for owners of tall buildings, including the Accountable Person and the Building Safety Manager.

The Accountable Person is the dutyholder during occupation. They may be an individual, partnership or corporate body and there may be more than one Accountable Person for a building. The Bill makes the Accountable Person responsible for registering the building and applying for a Building Assurance Certificate.

Existing buildings that are already occupied will also need to be registered, and existing buildings which are unoccupied at the introduction of the new regime will have to be registered by the point the building is occupied.

The Accountable Person will be required to comply with all the statutory obligations on an ongoing basis. The Bill includes provisions allowing the BSR to take enforcement action against the Accountable Person for non-compliance.

The Building Safety Manager, who must have the organisational capability and relevant skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to support them in complying with their duties can be an individual or organisation whose principal role is to support the Accountable Person in the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in the building.

The Bill creates an ongoing duty on the Accountable Person to assess the building safety risks relating to their building, and to take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence, and control the impact, of a major incident resulting from those building safety risks in or around the building.

The Accountable Person will need to demonstrate how they are meeting this ongoing duty through a Safety Case Report which they will be required to keep up to date. They will have to promote a strong partnership between residents and the Building Safety Manager, including engagement and participation, complaints handling, information provision and the role of residents in helping to keep the building safe.

These proposals are probably the most significant change to the building industry in memory.

The introduction of the gateway process is certainly a drastic move but one that we feel is essential to ensure the ‘race to the bottom’ and blame culture within the industry is eliminated and will ultimately lead to safer and better quality homes.

The process is complex and should drive up quality and safety. The result of these changes is that the process will increase timescales, increase cost and this will have an impact on the delivery of new homes.

More stringent competency checks will mean that the demand for qualified consultants and sub consultants will be required at stages of the project and the building’s lifecycle.

With more responsibility comes more liability and risk and we predict insurance premiums will likely rise and may become difficult to secure. It will take some time to transition into the new system and meet the competency and capacity needed to facilitate these reforms but we look forward to a safer and higher quality approach to tall building construction.

Tender Price Index

The BCIS TPI panel reports that prices remain volatile and tender prices have reached a somewhat critical point. They report that although prices seem to have remained unchanged in the main, some projects report that their prices are well below pre-tender estimates. This is similar to MA’s current experience where some recent tenders have been very competitive across both main contract returns and package returns.

The resultant 3Q2020 TPI figure shows a fall of -1.8% in the year from 3Q2019. The annual change implied by the panel consensus is -0.9%.

From the interim survey that BCIS carried out, a quarter of the respondents reported falling prices are expected to be the trend for the remainder of this year. It has also been noted that there are several projects that have been delayed with the average being less than 20%. The BCIS also expect that with demand now in decline, larger contractors would be more likely to tender for a wider range of projects and procurement routes, although evidence of this remains to be seen.

Productivity continues to improve on site. It has been reported that the average current productivity has reached 80% of pre Covid-19 levels, which is up from the 60% reported in mid-May. Productivity remains higher in housing, industrial and infrastructure sectors and on mechanised trades such as substructure, where productivity is back to 100%. It has also been noted that contractors’ submissions on longer two stage contracts are not allowing for Covid-19 but expect to pass it down the supply chain.

MA have seen delays as a result of Covid-19 on virtually all projects that have been on site prior to March 2020. Some projects still continue to suffer with intermittent materials shortages however most projects are now considered to be progressing in line with a ‘normal’ pre-Covid programme.

Cario New Road

New Homes for Optivo

We are delighted to have reached the Practical Completion stage of Optivo’s development at Cairo New Road in Croydon. We have worked closely with Optivo and contractor Skillcrown Homes to deliver 113 units across this 14 storey building, predominantly for shared ownership and London Living Rent, but also including some large duplex social rented homes. The scheme has retained an exceptionally high quality design, with internal finishes selected by Optivo’s marketing team which reflects the quality aspirations of the original design brief. The development includes a first-floor level podium amenity space with play area for children, a separate roof terrace amenity space, together with some generously sized terraces to the upper floors of the building that offer excellent views across London.

The team formed and maintained a strong collaborative approach from the outset, allowing us all to navigate our way through the complex sequence of Regulatory changes since the project achieved planning consent. Foresight from both Client and Contractor ensured design changes were implemented to improve fire safety prior to new Regulations and Advice Notes being implemented, ensuring efficient sequencing of programme could be maintained.

Optivo and Skillcrown Homes were able to maintain a very positive relationship with a neighbouring church throughout the build, resulting in shared access roads and spaces that now benefit both buildings. On the other side of the site, the project team successfully negotiated complex working arrangements with TfL to enable continual site activity whilst the adjacent tram stop and tram line were upgraded by TfL.

We are thrilled to see all the hard work of the past few of years being rewarded, with Optivo taking possession of a fantastic development.

Victory Parade

Martin Arnold are proud to have successfully completed the refurbishment of the Smart Mobility Living Laboratory, situated on the Royal Arsenal just yards away from our head office. The project was delivered by APC Building Services, on behalf of DG Cities. DG Cities are an urban innovation company specialising in the integration of ‘smart city’ technologies. The Smart Mobility Living Laboratory at the Royal Arsenal is the base for London’s research and development of autonomous vehicles. The facility is operated by TRL and is already delivering a service and running trials, being supported by The Royal Borough of Greenwich, Transport for London and world leading organisations such as Cisco, Cubic, London Legacy Development Corporation and University of Loughborough.

Martin Arnold were appointed to develop the specification, manage the procurement and act as Contract Administrator throughout the project. Our role involved detailed liaison with many specialists to ensure that the needs and requirements of the clients and potential end users were captured within the space. Part of the space was transformed into the vehicle laboratory whist the other part was converted into a useable office space, entertainment space, data centre and data control room. Martin Arnold worked with the client to ensure that their brand was the forefront of the design, transforming the space into a vibrant office environment with a clean, modern and technologically advanced workshop/laboratory space for end users.

The project was delivered on time, within budget, and to an extremely high quality finish, which was achieved throughout a difficult year with the restrictions of COVID-19 and challenging working conditions.

Forstal Lane

Joint Venture Success in Challenging Times!

Optivo & their joint venture partners, Chartway Group have worked in true collaborative spirit to bring success to their £30million 210 home, JV scheme in Maidstone Kent, overcoming the challenges of COVID in 2020.

In a little over 2 years, the project team has secured a Reserved Matters Application on the site, completed the enabling and infrastructure works to bring the site into the construction phase and have now successfully handed over the first residential units for occupation.

The site delivers a mix of tenure housing for the JV partners and, due to its sensitive rural location, almost 40% of the site is retained as green open space incorporating an orchard of new trees. There is a mixture of affordable rent and shared ownership for Optivo, whilst Chartway and Lamborn Estates, Optivo’s private housing company, are delivering high-quality, open-market sale units across the site.

The recent first phase of units handed over has delivered open-market sale units and the feedback from the in-house joint sales teams is that they have seen a surge in interest in the development in the post COVID period due to the combined offering of green open spaces and generous unit sizes.

With more handovers & sales in the pipeline, the parties are considering the early release of further sections of the site to take advantage of the Stamp Duty holiday; demonstrating that sharing risk and reward can be prosperous and successfully delivers much needed housing even in these challenging times.

Everest Campaign Conclusion

As you may remember, at the beginning of September MA decided to set ourselves one last challenge to round our recent fundraising efforts to £50,000.

We needed to raise £8,000 and did it by climbing Mount Everest – well virtually to be precise! We sponsored our team to climb 8,848m by ascending 3 flights of stairs a day, for 30 days.

We climbed Everest! In fact we climbed a lot further than we expected to and nearly climbed Everest twice! Importantly it’s the nominated charities that will benefit from our stair climbing activities.

We asked you to vote to tell us how to share out our final donation amongst the nominated charities. The final split is:
37% to Cancer Research,
16% to Bliss,
34% to Dementia UK and
13% to Shelter.

For a bit of fun we created a vimeo channel to share with you our videos of the team getting their steps in and you can read more on our website.

Not to be out done and in addition to his Everest expedition, our Executive Chairman, Jim Martin also ran the Folkestone Half Marathon in September and raised a further £1,200 for Cancer Research, so we’ll add that to our total too. Thanks Jim!


The Housing Forum’s National Housing Conference

We are delighted to be a part of The Housing Forum’s National Housing Conference on 20th October. The Conference this year is going virtual, delegates will view the event online in a broadcast format.

The whole-day event will start with a plenary session, followed by four consecutive streams on Productivity; Partnership Working; Procurement; Quality and Standards.

We are proud sponsors of Stream 4: Quality and Standards where our Managing Director, Roger Arnold, and Senior Associate, Ben Davis, are joining the expert panel. This session will cover:

  • The Draft Building Safety Bill: how to prepare – legislative and competency requirements for companies, employees and regulatory bodies; involvement of residents and transitional arrangements.
  • Findings on Fire Safety: what condition surveys tell us – management processes and digital utilisations; pace of inspection and priorities for action.
  • Building for Quality and Longevity: decarbonisation and home energy strategies.
  • Building Regulations for the Future: how does the industry need to prepare and respond?