The Building Safety Regulator ("BSR") has announced its strategic plan covering the first three years of its operation – April 2023 and March 2026. The plan sets out how the BSR will implement building safety measures and covers what the BSR intends to do in four key areas:
1. Delivering consistent standards within the building control profession
The strategic plan sets out the BSR's aim to set a consistent level of high standards by establishing a regulated building control profession, with new requirements and standards applicable to both the public and private sectors. The BSR considers that this will improve building safety competence, standards and reliability across the industry as well as regaining public confidence in building control.
The exact requirements and standards are still to be announced, but the strategic plan states that this will be achieved by way of two focus areas. The BSR will:
- work with third parties to achieve a common standard of competence for building inspectors (first provided for by April's Building Inspector Competence Framework); and
- use the new Operational Standards Rules ("OSRs") to monitor building control functions in the public and private sectors. The OSRs allow the BSR to request specific data from building control bodies in respect of building safety issues.
The strategic plan confirms that by April 2024 building inspectors will need to be registered with the BSR in order to undertake certain roles. Assessment by third party schemes will be a prerequisite to registration.
2. Overseeing and driving improvements across the built environment
The strategic plan further details the BSR's aim to drive an overall improvement in building safety and standards by way of the following:
- The BSR intends to be a proactive, responsive body. It will seek feedback and advice from committees and stakeholders, as well as undertaking its own targeted research, in order to remain abreast of changing trends within the built environment and to identify and assess risks to building safety;
- The BSR will provide expert advice on building safety and standards and will bring forward proposals to amend existing building safety regulations where necessary. It aims to ensure that regulations and Approved Documents are reviewed so that they are kept up to date, clear and consistent; and
- The new Industry Competence Committee will utilise strategic opportunities and targeted interventions to change culture in the industry, promoting and improving competence standards essential to safety.
3. Regulating the planning, design and construction of new higher-risk buildings ("HRBs")
The BSA has brought into force a more stringent regime for the design and construction of HRBs, with the BSR at the forefront of those changes. The BSR has advised that in its new role it will:
- Ensure that fire safety is part of the design process from the outset. It will advise local planning authorities on fire safety matters to promote high standards of fire safety from the start of the process; and
- Work with clients, designers and contractors to ensure they have appropriate systems in place to plan, manage and monitor design work in order to improve building design and construction. These parties will now be required to consider the functional requirements of building regulations at every stage of an HRB's design and construction, rather than later in the process. Further, the BSR will have the power to comment on and reject building control applications if they fail to meet the standards required by building regulations. This is all intended to drive a culture of safety.
4. Ensuring those who are responsible for HRBs manage risk to ensure resident safety
The BSR plans to ensure organisations responsible for occupied HRBs – Accountable Persons ("AP"), and where more than one AP exists for a building the Principal Accountable Person ("PAP") – will manage building safety risks appropriately. However, this will involve a significant degree of oversight from the BSR itself.
- All existing HRBs will be assessed within five years – with buildings being prioritised based on height and number of dwellings. Buildings with un-remediated aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding will, however, be assessed in the first year notwithstanding other criteria. New buildings will also be assessed during their design and construction.
- PAPs will be required to prepare a "Safety Case" for each HRB which will identify any risk of fire spread and structural failure in the building they are responsible for and will be required to put in place proportionate measures to safely manage and control those risks. PAPs must also engage with residents in decisions about their building's safety to enable them to have a voice in key decisions affecting them; and
The intention is that by April 2026 any work on remediating dangerous cladding will be completed or underway, and the BSR have advised they will take action where this has not been complied with.
What does this mean for the industry?
Since the BSA was introduced, it has been clear that how the wide-ranging changes, and the BSR's role in that would take some time to develop. This plan gives a clear indication of how the BSR aims to go about achieving its goals. The scale of the task in front of it, however, remains significant. Reviewing 13,000 existing buildings (alongside those under development) in the next five years will be no mean feat. Only time will tell how well it will be able to interact with APs, and those involved in the development of new buildings, to achieve safety goals.