by Lee Jones
So what is the draft bill?
To directly quote the Rt Hon. Robert Jenrick MP from the Bill’s introduction: ‘The Bill will introduce a new era of accountability, making it clear where the responsibility for managing safety risks lies throughout the design, construction and occupation of buildings in scope. There will be tougher sanctions for those that fail to meet their obligations’. The proposed changes will impact pretty much everyone in the built environment – from owners to regulators, contractors, designers, tenants and even construction product manufacturers. In the main part, regulation has been appointed to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), which will ensure that those acting in professional capacity are competent in their actions.
The contents of the Bill
The Bill itself is outlined in five parts and a series of schedules. These clearly outline the appropriate targets for each proposed change. The following text is a summary of the actions that will impact construction product manufacturers directly. The full document can be viewed here.
The regulator and its functions
Part 2 discusses the needs to facilitate ‘improvement in competence of industry and building inspectors’. For years, practising professionals in architecture have had to take part in CPD (continual professional development). Will this lead to a similar development for other professionals in our industry? We will have to wait and see. What is apparent, though, is that the regulator will enforce this change.
This part then goes on to discuss a ‘Duty to establish a system for giving of building safety information’. It will become compulsory to provide all information relating to the safety of the building. ‘Building a Safer Future’, published two years ago, details the proposal of a ‘Golden Thread’ of information that must be digital and accessible. It is highly likely that expectation will fall on the transfer of all information exchanged to principally be digital. For construction product manufacturers, this is a key step that NBS has been advocating for some time.
Another key feature of the bill is the use of the term ‘higher risk buildings’. This is an expected development from the initial proposed impact, which only focused on HRRBs (high-rise residential buildings). At NBS’ Construction Product Leaders’ Summit in Birmingham back in February, Dame Judith Hackitt noted that it was intended to at least make safety changes to all buildings of multiple occupancy. This proposal in the draft bill clearly gives scope to extend that further. The latter parts then go on to discuss offences, and the provision of false or misleading information. There will be notable means of enforcing prosecution against those who abuse trust and professionalism.
Building Act 1984
Part 3 discusses the proposed changes to the existing Building Act. The key takeaway from this section, in relation to construction product manufacturers again, is about the provision of digital data. The regulator may set conditions about the form and content of documents. This part then goes on to discuss the ‘giving of information by electronic means’. The regulator must establish and maintain a facility to enable a specified person to give specified relevant information to another person by electronic communication. What we will likely see here is the need for clear structured product data templates held online, with the sole intention that this information can be exchanged digitally with ease and less scope for errors – fundamentally establishing that Golden Thread process.
Higher risk buildings
Part 4 is dedicated to the identification and labelling of buildings considered high risk. A key point is that there will be a registrar for those building types. Information relating to these will be under high scrutiny.
Supplementary and general
Part 5 covers a multitude of areas not covered in the previous specific sections. A key point relates to the incentive to ensure that those practising architecture are competent to conduct their work for the specific design. A register is proposed, which will show disciplinary orders made in relation to a registered person for such period as may be prescribed, should they be found to not comply. For construction product manufacturers, this yields great opportunity to progress with the delivery of CPD seminars. In a recent webinar, NBS discussed how manufacturers can help and influence specifiers during the design stages. Having appropriate and educational CPD material, alongside high-quality literature and case studies, will benefit the industry.
Construction products regulations
Schedule 8 of the draft bill covers the proposed changes to construction products in depth, the marketing of these, and the manufacturers, importers and distributors of such products. It is proposed that new regulation will come into force which determine how construction products are supplied and importantly marketed: something echoed in the CPA’s Construction Product Information Survey. Over half of specifiers find it difficult to obtain relevant information from manufacturers. A key point is that the regulation is intended to ensure that clear DoP (Declaration of Performance) data is provided for all construction products, especially those considered ‘safety-critical products’. For those higher risk products, it will be intended that this data must go on to include information about the risks posed. This is heavily supported by the changes proposed to the Building Act 1984 discussed above.
The technical impacts on our industry will have to be carefully monitored to avoid repercussions. In this situation, clarity and honesty will prevail. Clear statements about your products’ abilities will help. The regulator will have the power to grant provision for relevant authorities to carry out market surveillance and test purchases, so there will be no hiding. NBS launched NBS Source this year: a new cloud-based platform, linked directly to the NBS specification tools. Source gives manufacturers the ability to clearly promote their products in a clear and structured digital manner, whilst actively promoting their case studies, literature, digital objects and CPD provision. This has been a welcome introduction for the industry, as it strives to shift towards a safer, more clear way of working. Find out more information on NBS Source.