Written evidence submitted by Working Group 8 (Competence Steering Group) [BSB 427]
Working Group 8 (WG8) on Competences for the building safety manager (BSM) welcomes this opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Building Safety Bill.
An Industry Response Group was established by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in early July 2017 to provide access to technical expertise from the Built Environment and to stand ready to mobilise industry to support a programme of remediation if necessary.
Following the publication of ‘Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report (The Hackitt Review), industry established the Competency Steering Group (CSG) and sub-working groups covering professions and trades to develop proposals to assure the competence of those working on buildings that would fall under the new regime.
Working Group 8 (WG8) was established as one of the sub-groups to develop a competence framework for the BSM. WG8 members cover a wide range of residential and commercial expertise for the occupation phase, with participating members coming from social housing sector, commercial and residential management, facilities managers, health and safety experts and fire safety experts. Meetings were attended by MHCLG officials.
The final WG8 report ‘Safer People, Safer Homes’, which contains our recommendations for both the BSM competences and its wider operating environment, will be formally published as part of the CSG ‘Setting the Bar’ report in late September but is already available to MHCLG and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We would welcome the opportunity to discuss its contents with Committee members.
WG8 will continue to work with BSI and MHCLG to turn the BSM competence framework into a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) and we will continue to work with the department and the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) both together and as individual organisations to embed the new regime to ensure safe homes for people.
We have tried to provide concise answers to the questions below and will remain engaged to assure the new regime is embedded in a manner that realises Dame Hackitt’s vision and the draft Bill’s policy objectives.
How well does the Bill, as drafted, meet the Government’s own policy intentions?
WG8 members welcome the draft Building Safety Bill and the progress it is making towards enabling the vision set out in the Hackitt Review.
In particular we welcome the outlining of a system of accountability and responsibility throughout the lifecycle of a building which will be critical to deliver safe homes and buildings. Crucial to the delivery of a sound system of accountability and responsibility is the competence of people delivering it and sanctions in the event of failure. Our comments, however, will focus for the most part on the element of competence.
An essential element to deliver safe homes and places is the availability of the right, correct, and up to date building information. For this reason, we welcome the embedding of a golden thread of information through a variety of processes, gateways and information requirements and offer our continued support for its development. Our report has made several recommendations of how this should be approached to make this work on the ground. This includes the need for mandated structures and information outcomes. We also welcome great progress on the development of greater resident engagement and the establishment of the new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive.
While we welcome the overall high-level principles, WG8 members look forward to receiving the detail that will enable them to operationalise the new regime, we offer our continued help for the development of the secondary legislation which will hopefully provide more clarity on how significant areas of the draft bill will work in practice.
Key issues that we would like to bring to the attention of the Select Committee are:
Does the draft Bill establish an appropriate scope for the new regulatory system?
Building safety risk/clause 16: WG8 has consistently argued that to achieve a holistic ‘whole systems and life safety’ approach the regime’s scope should be extended beyond fire and structural safety. While we welcome the opportunity within clause 16 for the scope to be extended beyond fire and safety, we also noted that because of the criterion of major accident hazard the expansion to other building safety risks in the future is likely to be minimal.
Our concern centres on the fact that with clear attention and accountability on ‘fire and structural safety’ other areas of life safety could potentially continue to risk non-compliance, with some of those areas not necessarily leading to a major accident, but nonetheless impacting residents in a significant and potentially ongoing manner. Following on from the Hackitt Review we had initially hoped to see wider areas of life safety (i.e. public health) being brought together in one regime. Given this is not possible the legislation could still cross reference to other relevant legislation, much like the references to the FSO. Additionally, this can be integrated at operational level through the development of further guidance, the PASs covering the three new statutory roles and the overarching competence framework.
‘Whole Building’/Clause 102 Cooperation and coordination:
A new duty to cooperate and coordinate with the Responsible Person (RP) in the FSO will apply to the accountable person (AP) and the BSM where there are common areas or commercial parts of a mixed-use building in scope. This is to achieve the ‘whole building’ approach outlined by Dame Hackitt as the draft Bill will only cover the residential parts of a building. While WG8 very much welcomes this alignment with the FSO, we are concerned that this approach does not fully negate the potential for gaps, especially in mixed use and other complex ownership structures where it might be difficult to identify a lead AP.
We therefore recommend that Government deliver detailed guidance on aspects of control and associated responsibilities throughout mixed use and other forms of building occupation, including specifically ‘Right To Manage’ and commonhold organisations, many of which will have very varied ownership structures. WG8 would also suggest that such guidance also cover the expected alignment and implementation of various other (duty holding) roles, beyond fire.
In addition to the above, the complexity of residential property management, is the wide range of ownership models, some of which can overlap in a single whole building. This can give rise to a potential hierarchy of organisation BSMs and Nominated Individuals, all responsible for different areas within one ‘whole building’. It is therefore crucially important that these individuals cooperate, and coordinate and that due consideration is given to this potential situation when undertaking a Safety Case review or considering the roles and responsibilities when registering a building at Gateway 3.
Higher risk buildings/clause 19:
WG8 agree with the proposal for an initially narrow definition of higher risk buildings to allow for the new regime to be embedded. We welcome the flexibility built into the draft Bill which will allow for a wider range of buildings to be brought into scope in a phased manner. WG8’s BSM competence framework has been developed to allow for a roll-out across the wider residential and even commercial sector, during a reasonable, sustainable transition period. We also welcome the potential flexibility to only make certain elements of the new regime applicable to future additional building types.
Will the Bill provide for a robust – and realistic – system of accountability for those responsible for building safety?
The accountability and responsibility system incorporated in the Bill will be critical for delivering safe homes and we agree with the high-level principles. We welcome the fact that building management is rightly being recognised as an integral part and important phase in the lifecycle of a building. Critical of course is the clarity on who the AP is, and that people responsible for the delivery of building management and life safety are competent to the right standards.
Our comments focus on:
Relationship accountable person and BSM, and related competence requirements:
Building registration process and certificate:
A competent workforce – systems, structures and processes to achieve this:
Will the Bill provide strong mechanisms to ensure residents are listened to when they have concerns about their building’s safety?
Is the Government right to propose a new Building Safety Charge? Does the bill introduce sufficient protections to ensure that leaseholders do not face excessive charges and that their funds are properly managed?
There is a challenge for government to ensure that the costs of implementing requirements in the new regulatory system remain affordable, both to residents and owners. The proposed “building safety charge” needs further consideration as it does not provide the necessary protection for leaseholders from both historical and future charges.
Is it right that the new Building Safety Regulator be established under the Health and Safety Executive, and how should it be funded?
WG8 welcome this development as the HSE is already a respected authority for its independence and considerable experience in their field. Having HSE play this lead role should also provide for greater application and uniformity of the regime across the country.
WG8 would like to stress the importance of the role of validating the AP’s due diligence around BSM competence. Equally important for the new regime’s success are the role enforcement and assuring compliance play in driving standards. The Regulator needs to be assured they have sufficient funding in place to be able to carry out their role, delivering safe homes. Without an efficient enforcement regime, the incentive for non-compliance will be too great and the new regime undermined.
The greatest ‘burden’ of the new regime will fall on existing occupied buildings. A two staged approach could therefore be suggested, where HSE is self-funded for new builds, with a level of government funding support for existing buildings for an initial phase of setting up the new regime. Once all buildings in scope are registered, a fully self-funded approach could be taken.
Does the Bill present an opportunity to address other building safety issues, such as requirements for sprinkler systems?
WG8 suggest that flexible clauses should be introduced to allow for new developments and insights on building safety issues to be implemented appropriately, as and when they arise and if deemed opportune (either through secondary legislation or existing legislation), including those building safety issues and systems that form part of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
 WG8 participating organisations are Avison Young, FPA, IWFM, IRPM, ARMA, Knight Frank, CIH, NHF, IFSM, NSHFG, LGA, CIAT, NFCC, BRE Group, BPF, UKAS