The devil’s in the detail of draft Building Safety Bill, says RIBA

Latest News Wed, Sep 16, 2020 9:14 AM

The RIBA has responded to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s call for evidence as they begin to scrutinise the draft Building Safety Bill.

Whilst the RIBA welcomes the intention of the Bill to provide long-overdue power to amend the Building Regulations – including requiring building safety ‘duties’ to be carried out on all projects – it has fundamental concerns about the delegation of duties and scope of the future regulatory system.

In its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, the RIBA urges the Committee to ensure:

  • equal emphasis of responsibility is placed on all dutyholders, not just the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor, to ensure safety is embedded throughout the project.
  • new statutory duties can be delivered regardless of the project’s procurement route – including projects procured through Design and Build where the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles may be provided by the same organisation.
  • dutyholders are in place for the Gateway 1 planning application so that clients are required to appoint competent designers and a Principal Designer.
  • Permitted Development schemes pass through the Gateway 1 regulatory submission, so that key building safety design parameters are met at this stage and competent dutyholders are in place.
  • a reduction of the height threshold to 11m and a widening of the scope of the definition of a ‘higher-risk buildings’ at the outset so that the new regime also applies to non-residential buildings including hospitals, care homes, hospices, schools, hotels, hostels, guesthouses and prisons during the design and construction phases.
  • the Bill does not disrupt progress of the urgent review of Approved Document B to provide the industry with clear, unambiguous guidance.

Chair of the RIBA Fire Safety Group, Jane Duncan, said: “The draft Building Safety Bill provides mechanisms to facilitate future regulatory change but, over two years on from the Hackitt Review, it’s still a long way from where it needs to be.

“The devil’s in the detail – and that’s exactly what‘s missing. We need clarification around the roles and responsibilities of ‘dutyholders’, measures to ensure Permitted Development schemes are fire-safe, and an appropriate definition of a ‘high-risk building’ – because fire does not discriminate.

“We urge the government to take note of our concerns and eagerly await clarification on secondary legislation. The longer this process continues, the longer people remain at risk.”

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