Douglas Masterson, Technical Manager at the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI), discusses the new measures set out in the Building Safety Bill.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, (the Hackitt report) found that the regulatory system for high-rise and complex buildings was not fit for purpose. The UK government has committed to implementing the report’s recommendations, which include new measures in the Building Safety Bill such as additional changes to fire safety legislation in the Fire Safety Act 2021.
Although the bill is limited to England, it is felt that the other devolved nations in the United Kingdom will adopt their own versions to tighten up on building safety requirements UK-wide.
While there are many aspects to this Bill, the following are some elements which are most relevant to those operating in the construction products sector.
New construction products regime
The Building Safety Bill will create powers to strengthen the regulation of construction products placed on the UK market. This will introduce new rules stating that construction products need to be safe, in a policy like the one for consumer products. UK Government will also create new ‘safety critical’ requirements for products that may cause death or serious injury, should they fail.
Manufacturers will be required to declare their performance, put in place production controls to ensure products consistently perform in line with this declaration and to correct, withdraw and recall products that don’t comply. This is of huge importance to our industry as these products will be treated in a similar manner to those under the scope of existing harmonised standards, requiring third party testing and conformity marking.
GAI has polled its members to see which items they feel should be deemed as safety critical products. The list will be forwarded to UK Government and other bodies, such as CPA and BSI, in due course.
An increase in levels of competence across the sector will also be at the heart of the Bill. In addition to the publication of the new British Standard Flex 8670, BSI is in the process of creating new standards which will hugely impact three key roles – Principal Designer (PAS 8671), Principal Contractor (PAS 8672) and Building Safety Manager (PAS 8673). GAI is directly involved in the creation and review of each of these standards.
GAI is also involved in several steering groups focussed on improving the competency of wider construction professionals specifying building products. The GAI’s most recent appointment in this area is to a sub-committee of the Interim Industry Competence Committee (IICC), which has been set up to provide strategic leadership and oversight of the industry’s work to facilitate improvement of competence in the built environment sector. The role of this sub-committee will be to establish a baseline for competence through research of existing industry schemes and providing a gap analysis thereof to HSE.
Golden Thread of information
The Bill will require those designing and constructing higher-risk buildings to develop a golden thread of information. This will be to ensure the information is accessible, accurate, up to date, transferable, secure and has longevity. The usage of Building Information Management (BIM) can be seen as a way of assisting in this process.
GAI has created 35 BIM Product Data Templates (PDTs) for door hardware and seals for members which will assist manufacturers to create their own Product Data Sheets, and therefore assist with the provision of structured data for this process. In addition to this, the GAI holds the position of chair of the shadow BIM Fenestration Relevant Authority who are working on several other sector PDTs including doorsets (which will be going through consultation process imminently) and window hardware, working jointly with Glass and Glazing Federation.
The Building Safety Bill was published on 5th July 2021, and at the time of writing is at Committee stage in the House of Lords. There are still several stages to go before Royal Assent, but it is anticipated that this will be during 2022.
The Building Safety Bill will have huge repercussions on the construction industry and not just in England, but throughout the UK. GAI is proud to play its part by contributing greatly as representatives of the construction product sector in a number of key areas.