Building Safety Act (BSA) - What engineers need to know

Author: Patrick Hayes

Date published

21 November 2022

The Institution of Structural Engineers The Institution of Structural Engineers
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Building Safety Act (BSA) - What engineers need to know

Date published

Patrick Hayes

Date published

21 November 2022


Patrick Hayes

In the first of a series of blogs focusing on the Building Safety Act, Patrick Hayes, IStructE Technical Director outlines some of the key things structural engineers need to know.

What Engineers need to know 

The Building Safety Act (BSA) was passed in April this year and heralds a new industry regime for safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. So what does it mean for structural engineers?



The Act will be law in England and through the devolved parliament, Wales. Although the focus has been on the obligations around Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs), certain provisions of the Act will affect ALL those carrying Building Regulation Work.

Roles, Duties & Competences

New dutyholders have been created in relation to Building Control work, based on those in the CDM regulations, namely Principal Designer, Principal Contractor, Designers and Contractors.

Most engineers will be classified as Designers. As such they will need to ensure the client is aware of their duties under the BSA and to ensure that their design, if built, would comply with Building Regulations. This implies additional site quality duties, either through inspection or specifying contractor QA checks. In addition, on domestic projects, where the client does not employ a Principal Designer, the lead designer will assume the role. The PD must ensure that the entire design meets building regulations.

In an aim to ensure that all work complies with Building Regulations, all designers are expected to demonstrate competence. Designers are expected to be members of a recognised institution or trade body. This also applies to specialist designers working on parts of a building.

Building Control Regulation

A new body, The Building Safety Regulator (BSR), acting under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), will oversee all Building Control functions in England and Wales. The BSR will be the Building Control Authority on Higher Risk Buildings.

Construction Products

All safety critical construction products (structure & fire) will need approval by a new Construction Products Regulator.

Working On Higher Risk Buildings

Additional provisions will apply to those working on residential buildings over 18m or 7 storeys (HRBs). There will be a new Building Control approval process for new HRBs, or refurbishment of existing HRBs.

The Golden Thread

All HRBs, both new build and existing, must compile a Golden Thread of Safety information. This is a digital record of the fire and structural building safety information. The golden thread will show how building compliance with applicable building regulations is being acahived. For engineers it will therefore be based on the Building Control application in accessible, digital form.

It is also used to Identify & manage building safety risks. For engineers, an ALARP based risk assessment would be expected.

Construction Works

New build HRBs and alterations to existing HRBs will be subject to a new Building Control regime. Three stop-go “gateways” will operate at planning, design and completion stages. At Gateway 2, design stage, all structural (& fire) related building control information will need to be submitted and approved by the BSR prior to construction. For large and complex projects the BSR may accept a staged approach, but approval will still be required before a stage can be constructed.

The structural design will need to consider how structures perform in and after a fire. The safety of secondary elements that could cause a significant risk, such as cladding fixings, balustrades and walls and heavy ceilings in public areas will need to be considered.

There will be a robust change control procedure once information has been approved. “Major” changes must be approved by the BSR prior to implementation. “Notifiable” changes must be submitted for review by the BSR prior to implementation. 

Existing HRBs

There are circa 12,500 HRBs and these will need to be assessed over a five year period. As well as developing a golden thread, existing HRBs will require a Safety Case, summarised in a Safety Case Report, to be developed.

The Safety Case Report identifies the building's major fire and structural hazards. It shows how these are managed.

The structural section should contain:

  • the structural condition of the building, including and any structural surveys or inspections
  • how its structural integrity is being maintained; via description of the building and risk assessment

If problems were identified these should have been assessed, along with any remedial measures.

When will The New Regulation Come into Force?

Planning already requires compliance with Gateway 1. (Fire safety planning). The rest of the regulations will come into force in April 2023. Building works where a plans submission has been made by April 2023 and construction has begun by October 2023 will not be subject to the new regulations.


Additional information




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