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Building Safety Act “does not begin and end with higher-risk buildings”

28 November 2023

THE NEW building control regime introduced under the Building Safety Act 2022 does not begin and end with higher-risk buildings. Some fundamental changes “apply more broadly”, the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association has warned.

1 October marked a key milestone in the implementation of the Building Safety Act with the Building Safety Regulator commencing its role as the new building control authority for higher-risk buildings, which include high-rise residential structures, hospitals and care homes.

However, the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association believes that this Act of Parliament has a much wider impact and includes evidencing that individuals and organisations appointed to undertake specialist work are competent to do so, regardless of the building type.

Competence is already a major talking point among many specialist trades, but it’s not uncommon to see them ‘bypassed’ in the search for greater profit. Indeed, the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association has already highlighted examples of pre-insulated pipework systems being used with inadequate fire safety and thermal properties.

The Trade Association suggests there’s an inherent understanding that Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors cannot be experts in every specialist trade required on a construction site. However, Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors will need to evidence that they understand specialist trade competence and specification compliance, and that they are therefore competent to award contracts to specialist trade contractors.

In many cases, the expectations placed upon specialist contractors by the Building Safety Act 2022 “do not reflect the situation on the ground”. The reality facing many Thermal Insulation Contractors Association members is that they either lose out to a non-spec compliant bid or are otherwise encouraged to alter the specification in order to remain in the race.

Key priority

The Thermal Insulation Contractors Association is the sole Trade Association for thermal insulation here in the UK. Ensuring that its members are well equipped to meet their own requirements for evidencing competence is a key priority. The organisation is also working with other industry leaders to ensure that ‘junctions’ between trades are managed correctly.

What should Tier 1 or Tier 2 contractors consider when appointing a thermal insulation contractor? Compliance with the specification (for example, thickness and type of insulation) is a key consideration. Also, there should be a correctly ‘carded’ workforce (ie operatives should hold the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association CSCS Thermal Insulator Card).

Further, evidence of additional training will be required on occasion, such as a heat network awareness certification for heat network-related projects.

Co-operation, trust and teamwork

Build UK’s CEO Suzannah Nichol MBE has emphasised the importance of co-operation, trust and teamwork throughout the supply chain.

“Just like in a relay race,” observed Nichol, “the baton for building safety needs to be held by someone at all times and properly handed over. If dropped at any point, the team is disqualified. To make it around the track, the team needs to work together, rely on each other and fine-tune the handover points.”

This statement eloquently highlights the importance of ensuring a correct handover at every stage in a construction project. It must never be forgotten that specialist trades are very much part of the team.

Thermal Insulation Contractors Association CEO Marion Marsland concluded: “The Building Safety Act 2022 will generate a huge amount of secondary legislation that specialist contractors must understand. The Thermal Insulation Contractors Association continues to work hard, ensuring that our members have the relevant information and knowledge they need to comply. Our role in defining our sector’s competency requirements continues. We hope to complete this work by the end of 2024.”

*Further information is available online by visiting the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association’s website