Are the days of burying one’s head in the sand now gone?
On the 20th January 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced new measures in respect of improving residential building safety in Parliament.
Within his statement the Housing Secretary has made it very clear that” …the slow pace of improving building safety standards will not be tolerated,” and he announced measures that go further and faster to ensure residents are safe in their homes.
He has announced that HM Government is committed to delivering the biggest change in building safety for a generation and has a new package of measures that includes:
Building Safety Regulator
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation with the aim of raising building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.
The new regulator will draw on experience and the capabilities of other regulators to implement the new regime and Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition.
Advice on building safety for multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings
Recent high-rise fires, including that within a block of student flats in Bolton in November 2019, have highlighted that many building owners have still not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of residents in buildings at all heights.
The government appointed independent expert advisory panel has clarified and updated advice to building owners on actions they should take to ensure their buildings are safe, with a focus on their external wall systems, commonly referred to as cladding.
The new guidance which does not replace or supersede requirements under the Building Act 1984, Housing Act 2004 or Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, has superseded the Advice Notes 1-22 issued by the MCHLG and brought together the guidance into a single document. Specifically, the advice on the assessment of non-ACM external wall systems (previously Advice Note 14) has been updated and incorporated, and some of the advice within the previous published notes has been condensed to make it clearer.
It additionally reflects the independent panel view that cladding material comprised of ACM (and other metal composites) with an unmodified polyethylene core should not be on residential buildings of any height and should be removed.
A call for evidence will also be published, seeking views on the assessment of risks within existing buildings. This important step will help to gather ideas and lead to research which will provide a firm evidence base to guide decisions for both existing buildings and future regulatory regimes.
The new consolidated advice also makes clear the actions building owners should take in relation to fire doors including auditing and assessment.
Remediation of buildings with ACM cladding
To speed up remediation, the Minister will be appointing a construction expert to review remediation timescales and identify what can be done to improve pace in the private sector.
To ensure cost is not a barrier to remediation, the government is considering different options to support the remediation of buildings and are examining options to mitigate costs for individuals or provide alternative financing routes.
Combustible cladding ban
The government has launched a consultation into the current combustible cladding ban, including proposals to lower the 18-metre height threshold to at least 11 metres.
The government’s consultation on sprinklers and other measures for new build flats concluded on 28 November 2019. They have proposed lowering the height threshold for sprinkler requirements in new buildings and will set out detailed proposals on how the government will deliver the technical review of fire guidance in February 2020.
Fire Safety Bill
The government has also set out further details of the upcoming Fire Safety Bill being introduced to Parliament, which set out in more detail its response to the Public Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations. This will clarify the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) - requiring residential building owners to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats. The changes will make it easier to enforce where building owners have not remediated unsafe ACM by complementing the powers under the Housing Act.
At Ark Workplace Risk, we believe that building owners and managers of residential properties have now got to act, and act quickly or they will find that they could be named and shamed in parliament.
Ark Workplace Risk's team are available to provide support; contact your engagement manager or call on 020 7397 1450.