LABC welcomes the new Building Safety Act
LABC welcomes the Building Safety Act which received Royal Assent last week. The 252-page bill, which started its passage through Parliament last July, will improve building standards, ensure the safety of residents, and protect leaseholders from the costs of any remedial work. The new Act sees the creation of a new construction products regulator with the power to remove products from the market and a new building safety regulator.
LABC, which represents all Local Authority Building Control teams across England and Wales, has been working with industry bodies and officials at DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) and the HSE since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, providing insight and support for the Hackitt Review and the Bill, and will continue to support the new Building Safety Regulator by providing skilled, experienced, and competent staff as part of its multi-disciplinary team. The Building Safety Regulator will oversee the building control system and be the registrar for the entire profession.
LABC has pledged full support for the development of the new secondary legislation which will follow and of course for the new Building Control regime under Peter Baker, HSE’s Chief Inspector of Buildings.
LABC particularly welcomes the new focus on improving competence across all sectors engaged in the design, construction, maintenance, management, and regulation of residential buildings. There is widespread recognition that despite the 5-year lead-in period, publication of this Act will come as a shock to many people in the wider industry who have not yet started preparing for the changes to come. LABC intends to use the transitional period for the implementation of secondary legislation to continue to inform, update and prepare its members and service users ahead of full implementation.
The registration of the building control profession is one of the most significant impacts of the Building Safety Act and will affect all English and Welsh local authorities – not just those with tall residential buildings. Everyone working in building control, in both the private and public sector, will soon have to register if they want to continue to practise. All surveyors will need to undertake regular formal assessment of competence as part of the process. Representing around 3,500 public service building control surveyors, LABC has invested millions over the last few years preparing for the new Building Safety Act and the forthcoming registration of the building control profession and has been working closely with HSE and DLUHC on building control operational standards, KPIs and professional registration.
Local Authority Building Control surveyors will form part of the regulator’s multidisciplinary team alongside HSE inspectors and fire service officers. These teams will work together to regulate new in-scope buildings and those going through refurbishment. Local Authority Building Control will also have a significant role as part of these teams in assessing and certifying the 12,500 existing high-rise buildings.
To support their investment in competence validation, earlier this year LABC won its bid for DLUHC grant funding to assist with the upskilling of building control professionals who will work on high-rise “in-scope” buildings. LABC is providing gap funding for those areas currently without in-scope buildings and to extend competence validation to Wales.
Last year, LABC established the Building Safety Competence Foundation (BSCF), a not-for-profit community interest company. The foundation will deliver competency validation industry wide. To ensure transparency and impartiality, the BSCF’s governance model includes, in addition to public service building control representatives, independent directors Lord Porter (Local Government Association), Nick Coombe (National Fire Chiefs Council), Graham Watts (Construction Industry Council) and Paul Timmins (Construction Industry Council Approved Inspectors Register).
The BSCF is working closely with UKAS towards accreditation under ISO/IEC 17024 (conformity assessment for bodies operating the certification of persons), with UKAS certification anticipated this summer. The registration of building control professionals is expected to require proof of competence via a UKAS- or Engineering Council-accredited scheme. The ISO accreditation will allow the BSCF to deliver such competency assessments. The Foundation is now offering competence validation assessments at domestic, general and specialist levels to the whole building control profession and is actively engaging with private sector building control approvers to gain their trust in delivering this important verification of professional competence.
Lorna Stimpson, LABC chief executive, says:
The Building Safety Bill is the most significant piece of legislation affecting the built environment in decades. The new safety regime means more duties for local authorities and a requirement for registration of the building control profession. LABC will ensure that our public service building control teams are both ready for these changes and most importantly are able to demonstrably prove their competence.