Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

Consultation on leaseholder-owned buildings above 11 metres or 5 storeys with relevant defects

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has made a call for evidence following the changes made to the Building Safety Act 2022 during its passage through Parliament earlier this year. For leaseholder-owned properties above 11m or 5 storeys, it was decided that the protections for qualifying leaseholders under Part 5 of the Act would not apply because these leaseholders would still be responsible for the costs of remedying the safety defects, in their capacity as freeholders of the building.

The Government is now seeking information on leaseholder-owned buildings of this size with relevant defects and the responses will be used to help shape future government policy on how best to protect leaseholders from the impact of safety defects in these buildings.

The consultation closes on 14 November 2022.

You can read more and respond here.

Government cyber experts unveil latest advice for firms working on major schemes New guidance for the handling of data on joint venture construction projects has been published following a collaboration between the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and industry experts.

By implementing the recommendations in the new Information Security Best Practice Guide, it is hoped that construction firms will be able to improve their physical and cyber security, making them less attractive targets for cyber attacks.

Sarah Lyons, deputy director for economy and social resilience at NCSC, said that the data handled in joint venture construction projects "must be protected to keep crucial infrastructure safe" and that "failure to protect this information not only impacts individual businesses but can jeopardise national security".

Read more here or here.

Safety warnings issued over life-threatening fire dampeners The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) is urging building clients to carry out checks and repairs on fire dampener systems as a matter of urgency. This comes after annual inspections revealed "a huge number" of significant fire risks resulting from incorrectly installed equipment.

The head of BESA, Graeme Fox, explains that the risk is caused by an improper practice of using self-drilling 'tek' screws, which do not melt when temperatures rise during a building fire, preventing the dampeners from working to contain the spread of fire.

Remedial action is encouraged to be taken "without delay" as awareness of the issue grows.

To find out more, please click here.

Construction firms at risk of underinsurance due to inflation The UK's Construction Material Price Index has increased by 26.4% in just one year. These rising construction costs are largely the result of raw material shortages and rising energy costs.

One consequence of this is that many homes and business are likely to be underinsured. This is because, if a property were to be damaged, any rebuild or remediation costs will have increased drastically since the policy was taken out and these costs may exceed the policy limits.

Policyholders are being urged to review their level of cover to ensure that their properties are adequately insured.

Read more here.

Criticism of government advice on stairwells in high rise buildings The Government has issued a new circular on the requirement for staircases for escape in the event of fire. However, the advice has not been well received. RIBA is one of several groups who have criticised the letter, stating that it does not provide clarity and lacks crucial detail.

The guidance says that designers of "uncommon building situations such as very tall residential buildings" should seek specific guidance to justify any decision, but fails to attempt to define what constitutes "uncommon" or "very tall".

Fire safety expert Arnold Tarling states that this "leaves it all in the eye of the beholder", such that it fails to provide certainty or effectively determine which buildings need to be looked at in this way.

To find out more, please click here or here.

Construction trade association calls for urgent government action The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi, asking the Government take action to tackle the impact of rising energy costs. The MPA is the trade associate for manufacturers of heavy building materials, including cement, concrete and lime. Each year, the industry produces 400 million tonnes of materials that are essential to UK's construction and manufacturing sectors.

MPA suggested that the Government could take the following steps:

  • allow temporary deferral of VAT payments
  • reinstate or replace the red diesel rebate, to cut fuel duty
  • extend the freeze on Aggregates Levy indexation beyond April 2023
  • take measures to tackle costs for energy intensive industries

You can read more here.