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Building Safety Act 2022 “will not create two models” asserts BESA

18 December 2023

THE CONSTRUCTION industry will not be able to operate a two-track system under new building safety legislation. That’s according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). The early focus of the Building Safety Act 2022 is on higher-risk buildings, which are primarily high-rise multi-use and residential, but this does not mean all other work can carry on as before.

Following the first meeting of BESA’s newly formed Building Safety Act Advisory Group, members agreed that the requirements of the legislation would transform all aspects of project delivery and business management. While Tier One contractors are leading the process of change, they will expect all members of their project supply chains to adopt new ways of working.

“This is transformational legislation,” explained Advisory Group chair Nick Mead. “The regulator’s eye is now firmly fixed on higher-risk buildings, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the implications for other projects.”

Mead continued: “The Building Safety Act has already led to fundamental changes to other regulatory standards including Approved Document B, which applies to all projects, and there are a lot more to come. It’s also influencing competency requirements across the board, so this is not something that anyone can avoid whether they work on higher-risk buildings or otherwise.”

Contractors stepping up

Mead, who’s technical director of MEICA Systems at Laing O’Rourke, added that clients and Tier Ones would expect contractors working in their supply chains to “step up” to the challenges posed by the Act.

“No construction business could possibly consider trying to operate two delivery models,” asserted Mead. “Why would we? These new rules have been put in place to address safety and quality problems that are decades old, so it’s in all of our interests to comply and drive much needed culture change right across the whole industry.”

The Advisory Group was established by Rachel Davidson (BESA’s new director of specialist knowledge) in order to agree priorities and help the Association create focused guidance designed to assist firms of all sizes when it comes to adapting to the new requirements.

“It was clear from our first meeting that there’s an urgent need to simplify information around the Building Safety Act,” affirmed Davidson. “There’s a danger that some firms will be tempted to ignore the legislation unless they can access simple guidance which is directly relevant to them and their roles within project teams.”

According to Davidson: “The Advisory Group members have also been very clear that they want to see better collaboration across the industry, and particularly between trade and professional bodies such that we can ensure the advice and guidance we provide is fit for purpose and up-to-date.”

Professional competence

The Building Safety Regulator will be paying particular attention to technical and professional competence to ensure work can be completed in compliance with the Building Regulations. That means contractors will have to provide considerably more evidence of both individual and organisational competence than they have in times gone by.

Davidson added that the regulator has already indicated that it expected the industry to “own its responsibilities” by driving improvements in the competency culture. Tier Ones, in particular, will be expected to use their procurement processes to embed culture change in their supply chains.

Contractors of all sizes should also prepare themselves for significant changes to contract Terms and Conditions that reflect the new responsibilities defined by the Building Safety Act. Indeed, those firms involved may need to seek legal and commercial advice.

Facilities managers will also play a crucial role because of the clear implications for the ongoing safe operation of buildings, which should have already been addressed by the time projects are handed over.

“All of us must adopt the mindset that this is about any building, not just high-rise structures,” stated Mead, who’s a former president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers. “BESA is in a strong position to bring all of the relevant information together and make sure this does not become intimidating for the smaller firms.”

Business opportunity

Nick Mead went on to state: “I would encourage everyone in our supply chains to look at this as a business opportunity. If you can show that you are ready for the changes and are embracing them, you will be in pole position when it comes to contracts being awarded.”

BESA has also welcomed the announcement that a group of the largest contractors, developers and housebuilders has pledged to work with the rest of the industry to improve construction product quality in line with the requirements of the Building Safety Act.

Barratt Developments, Berkeley Homes, Mace Group, Morgan Sindall, Murphy, Persimmon Homes and Skanska UK have all pledged their support for the Code for Construction Product Information, which means they must ensure the suppliers and manufacturers with whom they work meet agreed quality standards.

The Code is designed to ensure that products meet performance claims and are supported by technical competency such that clients, specifiers and end users alike will only accept Code for Construction Product Information-compliant products for their projects.

*Further information is available online at: www.thebesa.com