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Building Regulations

Building Safety Act 2022

Higher Risk Buildings

As we edge past the six-month transition period for Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs), a recent study by NBS sheds light on a significant industry challenge. It reveals that half of the professionals are still in the dark about their responsibilities under the Building Safety Act 2022. This lack of clarity poses a considerable risk to the industry’s ability to adapt and comply with new regulations.

A Call for Better Understanding

The findings are a wake-up call. Only a fifth of those surveyed feel ‘very clear’ on their duties concerning Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs). Such uncertainty underlines the urgent need for enhanced awareness and education. Russell Haworth, CEO of Byggfakta Group, echoes this sentiment. He recalls Dame Judith Hackitt’s firm message on the inevitability of regulatory change. The industry must grasp the intricacies of the Building Safety Act to uplift building safety standards.

The Golden Thread of Building Information

Another pressing issue is the management of the Golden Thread of Information. Less than half of the respondents understand how to maintain essential safety-related building information. A mere 10% have a concrete strategy in place. This gap in understanding and planning is alarming. Dr Stephen Hamil stresses the importance of a continuous, accessible flow of information to uphold safety throughout a building’s lifecycle.

The Role of Robust Specifications

Specifications play a pivotal role in ensuring safety from the design phase. They are crucial for demonstrating compliance with Building Regulations. The Building Safety Act, as Hamil points out, offers a chance for the industry to assert control over design and construction processes. Effective specification writing is fundamental to preventing substandard construction.

Moving Forward with Consistency

If you require assistance with your respective duties contact John Burke Associates today. We provide expertise and support to ensure clients comply with their statutory obligations. Furthermore, we believe in delivering a collaborative service and ultimately gaining the client’s trust and commitment. Therefore, our clerks of works division undertake a systematic and vigilant inspection of construction works in progress. This includes workmanship, materials and compliance to standards.

Building upon Action to Safeguard Single-Sex Spaces

building regulations

The DLUHC released a statement on 13th August 2023, announcing its intention to implement changes in building regulations to enforce the provision of gender-specific toilets. The department highlighted that the proposed policy aims to not only reinforce the concept of single-sex spaces but also promote the inclusion of self-contained toilets that cater to diverse needs.

Emphasis on Privacy and Dignity

Kemi Badenoch, the Minister for Women and Equalities, asserted that the introduction of gender-neutral toilets had inadvertently infringed upon the privacy and dignity of women and girls. Badenoch emphasized that the forthcoming regulations would ensure that every newly constructed building in England is mandated to offer separate male and female facilities or unisex alternatives, thus safeguarding the dignity, privacy, and safety of all individuals.

Gender-Neutral Toilets vs. Unisex Facilities

Gender-neutral toilets, designed for use by individuals of any gender, have been the subject of increased discussions surrounding inclusivity. These facilities are especially beneficial for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who may feel uncomfortable or face discrimination when using gender-specific bathrooms. The government’s announcement made a clear distinction between gender-neutral toilets and unisex or universal facilities. They define the latter as “single, standalone facilities used by both genders”.

Balancing Inclusivity and Need

The proposed policy recognises the importance of providing unisex toilets in new public buildings, as long as the available space permits. However, the government underlines that the installation of unisex toilets should not come at the expense of female toilets. This balanced approach aims to ensure that the needs of various groups are met without compromising the rights and comfort of others.

Benefiting Disabled Individuals and Easing Access

In addition to addressing concerns of privacy and inclusivity, the proposed policy is expected to have a positive impact on disabled individuals. By mandating separate male and female toilets, the government aims to reduce queues for accessible facilities. Currently, these accessible toilets are sometimes the only non-gendered options available, making the policy potentially transformative for those with disabilities.

In Conclusion

The proposed changes in building regulations are set to undergo consultation, indicating the government’s commitment to fostering a comprehensive and well-informed approach to this important matter. As England moves forward with these potential adjustments, the balance between privacy, inclusivity, and accessibility remains at the forefront of the conversation.

 

Enhancing Fire Safety in Residential Buildings

fire safety measures

Enhancing Fire Safety in Residential Buildings

In a significant statement on housing safety, Mr. Gove, the Housing Secretary, has confirmed the government’s intention to mandate second staircases in new build residential buildings over 18 meters. This decision comes following strong support from expert bodies, adding coherence and certainty to the fire safety measures in tall buildings. The government aims to ensure the safety of occupants in both new and existing high-rise structures, building on the reforms and fire safety measures introduced since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Gradual Evolution of Safety Standards

The proposed regulation regarding second staircases represents a considered and gradual evolution of safety standards. By incorporating this measure alongside existing fire safety reforms, the government is demonstrating its commitment to enhancing the overall safety of tall buildings in the UK.

Coherence and Certainty for the Sector

With the confirmation of the intention to mandate second staircases, the government is addressing the sector’s call for coherence and certainty in fire safety measures. By setting a clear threshold of 18 meters, new residential buildings above this height will be required to have more than one staircase, offering an alternative escape route during emergencies.

Ensuring the Viability of Ongoing Projects

While prioritising safety, the government is also mindful of not disrupting long-planned housing schemes. To avoid delays and maintain the viability of projects already underway, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will work closely with industry and regulators to design transitional arrangements. This approach ensures that ongoing developments can proceed smoothly while adhering to the new safety regulations.

Sprinkler Systems for New Care Homes

In addition to second staircases, the government is also considering proposals to mandate sprinkler systems in all new care homes, irrespective of their height. This measure is aimed at enhancing the safety of vulnerable residents and providing crucial support to firefighters during evacuation procedures.

Consultation for Building Regulations Update

The government’s proposals are part of the ongoing efforts to update statutory guidance and building regulations to ensure the safety of those living and working in new developments. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities will conduct a comprehensive 12-week consultation, seeking input from various stakeholders and the public.

Other Measures Under Consideration

The consultation will also explore other important measures, such as removing references to the national classifications (BS 476) from Approved Document B. This step aims to streamline the guidance framework and require construction product manufacturers to test their products to the British standard version of the European Standards, eliminating the dual system in place.

Additionally, the government will undertake a call for evidence on revisions to Approved Document B, focusing on materials and products used in external walls. Industry experts will be invited to share their views on the materials to be covered and suggest ways to enhance the clarity of the guidance provided.

Building on Past Fire Safety Reforms

Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the government has been resolute in its efforts to update and improve fire safety guidance to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. Several significant changes have been made to Building Regulations and guidance, including the ban on combustible materials for residential buildings, hospitals, and student accommodations above 18 meters.

Moreover, the use of Metal Composite Materials, similar to those used in Grenfell, has been banned in all buildings. The department has undertaken extensive work to clarify guidance, ensuring a better understanding of safety standards in the construction industry.

Among other reforms, the threshold for the provision of sprinklers in new blocks of flats has been lowered from 30 meters to 11 meters, while provisions for wayfinding signage for firefighters have been made in new blocks exceeding 11 meters. Additionally, evacuation alert systems have been mandated in new residential buildings over 18 meters in height.

Collaborating for a Safer Future

As the consultation period commences, the government encourages collaboration with industry professionals, including chartered surveyors, to offer their expertise and insights. Together, we can help shape effective and robust fire safety regulations that prioritise the well-being of residents and the wider community. By working in synergy, the UK can continue to advance its commitment to making residential buildings safer for everyone.