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Impacts on the role of the structural engineer

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Overview of the Building Safety Act and the impacts on the role of the structural engineer.

The Building Safety Act is designed to give residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughen sanctions against those who threaten their safety.

A Building Safety Regulator will oversee the new regime and be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing higher risk residential buildings of 18m and above (or of seven storeys or more) are effectively managed and resolved.

This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.

The duties of cooperation, coordination, communication and competence will apply to the dutyholders (clients, principal designers, designers, principal contractors, contractors) for building work associated with higher-risk buildings.

These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.

The Act also includes measures to prevent leaseholders from being responsible for the remediation costs of their building.

Implementation

Primary legislation
  • The primary legislation sets out the height criteria in metres and storeys for the design and construction elements of the regime.

  • For the occupation regime, the primary legislation sets out the height criteria, and that the building must contain at least two residential units. A residential unit can be a dwelling, a flat, a bedroom in a hall of residence or any other unit of living accommodation.

Secondary legislation
  • The government has published the secondary legislation, in draft, alongside introduction of the  Act. The draft secondary legislation set outs technical definitions, excludes certain buildings from the regime and, for the design and construction regime, defines the use criteria for a building to be covered.

  • An example of a technical definition is that height will be measured from ground level on the lowest side of the building to the floor surface of the top storey (which does not exclusively contain roof-top machinery or a plant area).

Technical scope

The Building Safety Act defines building safety risks as relating only to fire spread and structural failure
Government commissioned researched by the Health and Safety Executive concluded the major accident hazards in a higher-risk building would largely be rapid onset escalating fire, structural, or explosion events. Though explosion events can trigger a rapid onset escalating fire or a structural failure.

Other risks can result in a major incident when they trigger a spreading fire or a structural collapse, e.g. flooding causing structural damage.

The regulations will apply to all work to which the Building Regulations 2010 apply.

Oversight

The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will oversee the safety and performance of all buildings, as well as having a special focus on high-rise buildings. It will promote competence and organisational capability within the sector including for building control professionals and tradespeople.

The National Construction Products Regulator (NRCP) will oversee a more effective construction products regulatory regime and lead and co-ordinate market surveillance and enforcement in this sector across the UK.

The New Homes Ombudsman Scheme will allow relevant owners of newbuild homes to escalate complaints to a New Homes Ombudsman. Developers of new-build homes will be to become a member of the New Homes Ombudsman Scheme.

The Building Safety Regulator

The new Building Safety Regulator will be at the heart of the reforms. Housed in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it will be responsible for overseeing the “safety and performance of all buildings”.
The three broad functions of the Building Safety Regulator will be to:

  • Implement the new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings

  • ​Oversee the safety and performance of all buildings

  • Assist and encourage competence among the built environment industry, and registered building inspectors.

There will also be registers of occupied high-rise buildings, building inspectors and building control approvers.

Dutyholders

The regulations set out the framework of duties for those persons and organisations (“dutyholders”) who commission, design and undertake building work to which building regulations apply:

  • Client

  • ​Principal Designer

  • Designers

  • Principal Contractor

  • Contractors

Dutyholders will need to work together to plan, manage and monitor the design work and the building work, ensure they cooperate and communicate with each other, coordinate their work and have systems in place to ensure that building work, including design work, complies with all relevant building regulations.

The regulations will also set out the competence requirements (i.e. the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours) that those dutyholders will need to have to undertake work and ensure that those they appoint are also competent to carry out that work.

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