Last month saw the close of the IRPM Regional Seminars, which began in September this year.
Both Gary Hendry and Shaun Lundy were among the industry experts who spoke to a combined audience of over 600 Property Managers at seminars in Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton, Manchester and London.
Their presentation provided a vital update on the, Building a safer future: proposals for the reform of the building regulatory system: Consultation. Shaun and Gary also provided expert input into the end of day case study on the thorny issue of cladding risks and how to manage them.
For those who didn’t get a chance to attend the seminars (and for those who would like a brief recap) we have summarised a few of the key messages to take away from our talk:
Accountable Person and Building Safety Manager
For residential buildings in scope (typically those over 18m but also including over types), one of the main themes in the consultation is more rigorous accountability and one of the proposals made is for a named ‘accountable person’, usually the duty holder, who will be responsible for ensuring that building fire and structural safety risks are reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. The accountable person will also be responsible for naming a competent Building Safety Manager – a role that Dame Judith Hackitt suggests should be made mandatory with defined competences to enable them to carry out this important function.
The building safety manager will support the accountable person by carrying out the day to day functions of ensuring that the building is safely managed including maintaining the safety case, implementing the resident engagement strategy and reporting relevant issues to the regulator.
Both the Accountable Person and the Building Safety Manager will be named on the Building Safety Certificate issued by the Regulator. By having a Building Safety Manager, there is a belief that accountability cannot be passed around. However, the question arises: who can do this job and who would want to?
Golden Thread of Information
There are currently significant issues in the production, maintenance and handover of building information which can often mean that the building owner does not have the required up-to-date information to safely manage a building across its life cycle. The consultation identifies the need for a Golden Thread of Information for all higher risk residential buildings, to help tackle this problem.
This means that all of the relevant information for a building should be made available to the person responsible for fire safety.
Though it may be possible to do so for new buildings, we have seen first-hand that many older buildings have little or no historical records and it may be impossible to find them, particularly if they are very old. The report suggests that for existing buildings where information is not available and cannot be collected, the dutyholder will need to explain why.
Knowing a complete history from initial planning, to building, refurbishment etc. will hopefully allow for a more transparent safety assessment and application.
This information will include a digital record, a ‘fire and emergency’ file, full plans, and a construction control plan. The building owner would also have to complete a pre-occupation ‘fire risk assessment’ and a resident engagement strategy before the building could be occupied. This will form the ‘Safety Case’ for the building which would need approval by the Regulator before the Building Safety Certificate can be issued.
There will also be a requirement to retrospectively create safety cases for existing buildings, which will undoubtedly be an enormous undertaking for Landlords and Managing Agents.
Residents are at the heart of the new regulatory system. Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, many residents have reported feeling frustrated by the lack of information being available on safety. In order to rebuild public trust, the system should ensure that the needs of residents are met and that residents have access to a wide range of information relating to safety.
In addition to this, residents themselves have a role to play in identifying and reporting issues that may impact the safety of their buildings.
The consultation proposes that the accountable person, through the Building Safety Manager, must provide residents with the information they need by implementing a resident engagement strategy.
Here at 4site, we are currently developing a Residents Voice App for residents to positively engage with risk management and get safety information that was relevant to their building and their flat. Watch this space for more details.
Gary and Shaun both finished their presentations by reiterating that nobody knows when this new regime will take place. However, Managing Agents should begin to think about how they will prepare and implement the proposals made.