Building Safety Act (BSA) - what does it mean for structural engineers on domestic projects?

Author: Patrick Hayes

Date published

20 November 2022

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Building Safety Act (BSA) - what does it mean for structural engineers on domestic projects?

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Author

Patrick Hayes

Date published

20 November 2022

Author

Patrick Hayes

IStructE Technical Director, Patrick Hayes, sets out the key changes that the Building Safety Act will bring for structural engineers working on domestic projects in the UK.

The initial provisions of the Building Safety Act (The Act) came into effect on 1 April 2022. By October 2023 all the main provisions will be in place.

Much of the focus has been on the regulations for Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs). However, as the aims of the Act are broad, the impacts are wide ranging and potentially affect anyone who is preparing Building Regulation work now, or has designed multi-storey residential buildings in the last 30 years. 

At the heart of the Act are the aims of giving residents a voice and rights of redress and lifting standards of construction through higher competence and better regulation. Most of our members work in SMEs, so how does the new regime impact the everyday engineer working on domestic and small projects?

New Duties

The regulations set out new duties for those (‘dutyholders’) involved in building work to which building regulations apply:

  • client

  • principal designer

  • designers

  • principal contractor

  • contractors.

 The dutyholders and their duties are based on those in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). Dutyholders will need to coordinate and ensure that building work complies with building regulations.
 
The Principal Designer is to be in control of all of the design work. Any person who carries out any design work, or manages design work, will be a designer.
 
If a domestic client fails to appoint a Principal Designer or Principal Contractor, the designer of the project will be the Principal Designer; and the contractor will be the Principal Contractor.
 
So where there is no architect on a domestic project, the structural engineer would by default become the Principal Designer and ensure that ALL design work is building regulation compliant.

Designers

Any person who, in the course or furtherance of a business, carries out any design work, or arranges for or instructs, someone under their control to carry out design work, will be a designer. In addition to the general duties designers will have the following duties:

  • To not start design work unless satisfied that the client is aware of their duties
  • ​When carrying out design work the designer must ensure that, if built, the building work to which the design relates would be in compliance with all relevant requirements
  • In providing a design, a designer must take all reasonable steps to provide sufficient information about the design, construction and maintenance of the building to assist the client, other designers and contractors to comply with all relevant requirements
  • Where a designer is carrying out only part of the design of the building work which comprises a project, the designer must consider other design work which directly relates to that building work and report any concerns as to compliance with all relevant requirements to the Principal Designer; and,
  • If requested to do so, a designer must provide advice to the Principal Designer or the client on whether any work, to which a design it is preparing or modifying relates, is higher-risk building work.
The Principal Designer

The Principal Designer will need to:

  • Plan, manage and monitor the design work, ensuring that the design, if built, would comply with building regulations

  • Ensure that they, and the designers in the team, cooperate, communicate and coordinate their work with the Client, the Principal Contractor, and other designers

  • Liaise with the Principal Contractor, and share information relevant to the building work

This will be a positive change for our members, as it should filter out underqualified designers from carrying out Building Regulation.

 

Competences

The proposals include competence requirements for individuals and organisations carrying out design or building work.
Dutyholders will be expected to meet the sector set standards, i.e. relevant training and qualifications recognised by accredited institutions, membership of an established trade or professional body, or relevant experience of the type of work they will undertake.
 

Construction Products

Under The Act a new Construction Products Regulator will be created.  The regulator will oversee a construction products regulatory regime.   Under the regime manufacturers will be required to complete a declaration of performance for all safety critical and follow the specified system of assessment and verification to ensure that the claimed performance is met.
 
The new regulations cover all products, including those already on the market and future products.
 

Work on HRBs

Additional requirements apply to those working on Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs). These are defined as residential buildings, care homes or hospitals of at least 18m or 7 storeys in height containing more than residential units. Members working in HRBs will need to justify their competence before doing so. This is likely to be through the establishment of discipline registers. Even those members not involved in HRBs should be aware of the scope, so as not to be in breach of their duties.
 

Additional Liabilities

Under The Act, residents of existing qualifying buildings will have additional recourse to pursue those responsible for relevant defects.  Qualifying buildings are 11m or 5 storeys in height containing more than two residential units.  Relevant defects are those relating to fire or structural safety. For claims arising from events after June 2022, the limitation period will be increased from 12 to 15 years. For claims arising from events prior to June 2022, the limitation period will increase to 30 years.
 

New build home warranties

Under The Act developers of more than one unit will need to provide a new build warranty. It is possible that members may therefore be requested to provide collateral warranties to residents on even small projects.

Summary

Advice to members working on small domestic projects is therefore to:

  • Know the scope of HRB definition to ensure you don’t fall within the provisions

  • Know the duties of a designer under The Act

  • Inform domestic clients of their duties under The Act

  • Keep your membership up to date to demonstrate competence

  • Be aware of whether your client has appointed a PD

  • From October 2023, check products comply with the new regulations

  • If you have worked on larger projects in the past and are looking at run-off insurance, ensure you have adequate cover.

  • Know your position regards warranties on new build properties.

 

Additional information

Format:
Blog
Publisher:
IStructE

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Blog Domestic Codes & Standards Construction management Best practice Building Safety Act

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