Have you ever taken on management of a newly built block where fire safety works were needed immediately? Or, indeed, where you had no fire safety information at all?
Historically, building safety in the UK has been divided into two separate phases: pre-construction and post-construction. Building Regulations 2010 apply to design and approval, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005 apply during occupation. The existing mechanism relies on the provisions of Building Regulations Regulation 38, which requires the contractor to devise, design and construct a fire strategy and, importantly, to pass that information onto the new building owner.
After her review of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt noted a number of flaws in this approach, including the responsible person not having access to this original fire safety information.
Recommendations from the Hackitt Review are being implemented within the forthcoming Building Safety Bill and seek to prevent this in future, but what can you proactively do in the meantime to ensure your building and its occupants are safe?
The aim of regulation 38 is to ensure that “the person responsible for the building has sufficient information relating to fire safety to enable them to manage the building effectively.” The Responsible Person is therefore required to have access to all of this information in order to allow them to understand and maintain the effectiveness of that fire safety strategy as it has been designed and built into the building.
This information should be provided “no later than the date of completion of the work, or the date of occupation of the building or extension, whichever is the earlier.”
The Draft Building Safety Bill (BSB) was published 20 July 2020 and when it eventually becomes law it will put in place an enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings. The overall ethos of the Bill is that it introduces “a new era of accountability.”
Dame Judith found that, in many cases, the responsible person does not have access to the original fire safety design information for their building. Therefore, she has introduced the concept of the ‘golden thread of information’ to ‘ensure that accurate building information is securely created, updated and accessible, at points throughout the building life cycle’ (Hackitt 2018).
When the BSB becomes law, the duty holder at each stage of the build (design, construction and occupation) will be required to provide this often-missing information as part of that golden thread, and the Building Safety Regulator will not allow any building to pass to the next stage without it.
Regulation 38 is far from a new concept as it has been part of building regulations for years. We do know, however – from both ours and our clients’ experiences – that historically, the information seldom reaches the building owners or managing agents.
This Fire Safety design and construction information will become crucial, in the forthcoming building safety regime in achieving that all important Building Safety Certificate from the Building Safety Regulator – without the likes of which, it has been indicated that the building may not receive a certificate and consequently be deemed unfit for habitation.
Many are seeking to address this impending issue now in order to be prepared, but also for the immediate safety of their residents. We have seen this materialise by way of a rise in enquiries for compartmentation surveys and fire safety design gap analysis for existing buildings, which provide a great starting point for filling in the gaps in each buildings’ golden thread.
Please get in touch with our team if you would like free impartial and independent advice on anything you’ve read here.