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The UK government says it is committed to delivering “the biggest change in building safety for a generation” after announcing the immediate establishment of a new regulator, as part of a raft of measures.
Declaring that “the slow pace of improving building safety standards will not be tolerated” Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday that the new regulator will give effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings, as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Though building owners are responsible for ensuring their buildings are safe, the government says it will work with local authorities to support them in their enforcement options where there is no clear plan for remediation.
Jenrick MP added that from next month he will start to name building owners where remediation has not started to remove unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding from their buildings.
He also confirmed that the government will consult on extending the ban on combustible materials to buildings below 18 metres and will seek views on how risks are assessed within existing buildings to inform future policy.
The new measures include:
Building Safety Regulator
Run by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the regulator will raise building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings. Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a board to oversee the transition.
Health and Safety Executive Chair Martin Temple said: “We are proud the government has asked HSE to establish the new Building Safety Regulator.
“HSE’s vast experience of working in partnership with industry and others to improve lives will ensure people are confident the creation of the new regulator is in good hands.”
Advice on building safety for multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings
The government says the independent expert advisory panel (IEAP) it appointed 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.
This consolidated advice simplifies the language, consolidates previous advice into one place, and – vitally – makes clear that building owners need to do more to address safety issues on residential buildings under 18 metres.
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 government also claims that its consolidated advice “makes clear the actions building owners should take in relation to fire doors”, and has welcomed the “commitment by the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers to work with building owners to remediate their doors which failed tests”.
Remediation of buildings with ACM cladding
To speed up remediation, the government says it will appoint a “construction expert to review remediation timescales and identify what can be done to improve pace in the private sector”.
Combustible cladding ban
A consultation into the current combustible cladding ban, including proposals to lower the 18 metre height threshold to at least 11 metres, has been launched.
Following a consultation on sprinklers and other measures for new build flats, the government has 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”.
Fire Safety Bill
The government has also set out further details of the upcoming Fire Safety Bill, which, it says, will “clarify the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – ‘the Fire Safety Order’ - requiring residential building owners to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats”.
Apparently, the changes will “make it easier to enforce where building owners have not remediated unsafe ACM by complementing the powers under the Housing Act”.
Housing Secretary Jenrick said: “The government is committed to bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation.
“Progress on improving building safety needs to move significantly faster to ensure people are safe in their homes and building owners are held to account.
“That’s why today I’m announcing a major package of reforms, including establishing the Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive to oversee the new regime and publishing consolidated guidance for building owners.
“Unless swift progress is seen in the coming weeks, I will publicly name building owners where action to remediate unsafe ACM cladding has not started. There can be no more excuses for delay, I’m demanding immediate action.”