Last edited 23 Jan 2020

Reform of building safety standards

On 20 January 2020 Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced new measures to improve building safety standards, described as: ‘the biggest change in building safety for a generation’.

The changes, following the Grenfell Tower fire, include:

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established. It will supervise a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings. Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition.

The government appointed independent expert advisory panel (IEAP) has clarified and updated advice to building owners on actions they should take to ensure their buildings are safe. This simplifies the language, consolidates previous advice and makes clear that building owners need to do more. It reflects the view that ACM cladding (and other metal composites) with an unmodified polyethylene core should not be on residential buildings of any height and should be removed. It also makes clear the actions building owners should take in relation to fire doors.

The government will be appointing a construction expert to review ACM cladding remediation timescales and to identify what can be done to improve the response by the private sector.

The government has also launched a consultation into the combustible cladding ban, including proposals to lower the 18 metre height threshold to at least 11 metres. This is partly in response to the fire at The Cube, Bolton in 2019, a student accommodation block that was just under 18m high.

The government proposes lowering the height threshold for sprinkler requirements in new buildings and will set out detailed proposals on how they will deliver the technical review of fire guidance in February 2020.

The government has also set out details of the upcoming Fire Safety Bill. This will clarify the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, 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 enforcement action easier where building owners have not remediated unsafe ACM cladding by complementing the powers under the Housing Act.

Robert Jenrick said: “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.”

Ref https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-measures-to-improve-building-safety-standards

Speaking to Parliament, Jenrick also announced the creation of a national chief inspector of buildings.

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