Building Regulations

The Regulations deliver the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt in her report Building A Safer Future and cover the technical detail that underpins the new, more stringent regime for the design and construction of higher-risk buildings, wider changes to the building regulations for all buildings and the details of the new in-occupation safety regime for higher-risk buildings. The intention of the new regime is to drive a change in culture where those involved in higher-risk building work are accountable for their work.

The Regulations will come into force on 1 October 2023.

The publication of these Regulations:

  • create new duty holder roles and duties
  • lay new procedures for the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) to control all work on Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs)
  • set out the new regime for the management of all occupied HRBs.

Here are some key takeaways:

What is the statutory definition of a ‘higher-risk building’?

A higher-risk building is defined as a building in England that:

  • is at least 18m in height or has at least 7 storeys; and
  • contains at least 2 residential units.

Higher-risk buildings are defined in section 120D the 1984 Act and the Higher-Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2023.

What does this mean for building design, construction and management?

These Regulations will fundamentally reform the way buildings are designed, built and managed to ensure the safety of those who live in them. They introduce significant reform to building control for all buildings and a new approach to building control for blocks of flats, hospitals and care homes of 18m or more or seven stories or more under the new Building Safety Regulator.

What is the new ‘in occupation regime’?

The Regulations introduce the new ‘in occupation regime’. This means duty holders must demonstrate they are proactively engaging with residents on building safety and demonstrate to the building safety regulator that they are managing the building safety risks in their building – fire spread and structural collapse – appropriately.

What is meant by building work being ‘commenced’?

A requirement is placed on the client to notify the Regulator twice – first when work starts on site and then again when work is regarded as “commenced”. At least five working days before starting higher-risk building work on site, the client must notify the Regulator of their intention to start work and the date on which the work is to start. Within five working days of the building work being considered “commenced”, the client, or someone on their behalf, must notify the Regulator of this fact.

What is a ‘complex building’?

  • A construction of a higher-risk building will in many cases be considered a “complex building”. A
    “complex building” means:
  • a building constructed on the same shared foundation plinth or podium as any other building
    or structure
  • a building with more than one storey below ground level or
  • a building where its proposed use is primarily as a public building with capacity for 100 or more

By a “public building” the regulation is referring to a shop or shopping centre; premises where food or drink are sold for consumption on the premises, including a nightclub, social club or dance hall; a stadium, theatre, cinema, concert hall; a sports ground; an exhibition hall or conference centre; or a hospital or premises for the provision of health care.

Change control

One of Dame Judith’s recommendations was a need for a statutory change control process during construction. She recommended that the process required robust record-keeping of all documentation signed off by the Regulator and more significant changes may require permission to proceed. The inclusion of a change control process aims to ensure that the impact of changes is properly considered, compliance with building regulations is owned by those with the legal responsibility to meet them and accountability of the principal duty holders is maintained throughout the project. A graduated approach of different types of change (recorded, notifiable and major) aims to prevent relatively small changes going through unnecessary bureaucracy and more significant changes not receiving sufficient scrutiny.

Submitting building control approval

Where building work in an existing higher-risk building is not going to be carried out under a third-party certification or competent person scheme, or consists of emergency repairs, the applicant will have to submit a building control approval application to the Regulator, complete with prescribed documents relevant to the size and scale of the building work being undertaken.

Golden thread, mandatory occurrence reporting, information handover

The client must ensure that information and documents are kept as part of the golden thread of information before building work begins on a higher-risk building, and that this golden thread of information is kept electronically.

The information flow supports the design and construction of buildings as holistic systems and allows people to use information to safely and effectively design, construct and refurbish their buildings. It will also ensure that residents and owners of residential units can have confidence that their homes have been built and refurbished safely.

The Building Safety Regulator

Amendments made to existing legislation means that the Building Safety Regulator is to be the only building control authority for all higher-risk buildings – local authorities and approved inspectors will not be able to supervise higher-risk building work.

Fire safety

Through these Regulations, legal responsibilities will be placed on those who commission building work, participate in the design and construction process and carry out the building control function, to ensure standards are met and structural and fire safety are managed. The Regulations seek to strengthen fire safety information handover for buildings where the Fire Safety Order applies, to make the process safer and more efficient.

The fire safety information is information relating to the design and construction of the building or extension, and the services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with the building or extension which will assist the responsible person to operate and maintain the building or extension with reasonable safety.

What next?

The next sets of regulations related to the new regime are due to be laid shortly; the Higher-Risk Buildings (Keeping and Provision of Information etc) (England) Regulations and the Charges Regulations are currently due to be laid in September.

The former will cover the information that accountable persons for occupied higher-risk buildings need to keep as ‘golden thread’ information and what information they need to share with residents and other people who are involved in ensuring the safety of the building. The latter will set out the approach to charging by the Building Safety Regulator.