Reflecting on the Building Safety Act 2022
19 July 2022
Associate Donal Hardy reflects on building safety legislation and the industry's responsibilities:
The Building Safety Act became law in April 2022, representing a far-reaching range of new requirements for all sections of the built environment industry, from design, manufacture and project management to construction. For an industry still seeking to repair its reputation five years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Act marks a necessary sea change. We at TateHindle welcome the legislation, and the increased focus on building safety.
The successful delivery of large, complex projects from initial concept through to completion requires a committed team with expertise in their respective fields, following the RIBA Plan of Work. The government-commissioned Hackitt review and subsequent Building a Safer Future Report, along with the ongoing public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster, have laid bare the shortcomings of the industry’s ability to implement statutory building regulations. To address this, the Building Safety Act sets out new requirements for a ‘Golden Thread’ of information throughout the whole life cycle of a built project, from concept to occupation and beyond. The Act requires clearly identified, competent ‘Duty Holders’ (Client, Principal Designer, Designers, Principal Contractor, Contractors) to work together and share information to ensure compliance with the building regulations. It is in this spirit of collaboration – and in the interest of the building’s end users – that we strongly encourage our colleagues and clients to raise standards and fully embrace the Golden Thread.
Architects and lead consultants oversee increasingly complex building typologies, technologies and project types. As a profession, we’re experienced in adapting and responding to a multitude of challenges during the concept, design and construction of a scheme, and we’re involved at all stages of the RIBA Plan of Work. Architects occupy a unique position of oversight and understanding of the whole process; it’s a position of great responsibility that has the potential to effect significant change for the better in terms of the safety of the buildings we design.
At TateHindle we’re committed to following the RIBA Plan of Work. We adhere to a well-established technical review process through all stages of work, with minimum requirements set out clearly in advance; this process is continually evolving in response to changing regulations and legislation. We require all residential projects – not only higher risk buildings – to follow the RIBA Fire Safety and Compliance tracker, in which all members of the design and client team are required to provide a clear record of how the proposals address fire safety and comply with building regulations. This mirrors the Golden Thread’s Gateways process. We invest in our team and provide training in fire safety and understanding building regulations; our CPD programme follows the RIBA curriculum, and we have well-established, robust processes to track and monitor projects and ensure that the highest standards are followed.
As architects and urbanists, we believe our role is to evolve every space, building and community we engage with for the better — for its people and for the planet. We see ourselves as custodians of the built environment. In our position overseeing the design, we recognise that we’re best placed to provide continuity through the RIBA Stages of Work. More than that, we see it as our moral and ethical responsibility to act on behalf of the public, and to highlight and promote the highest standards. We do this in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of the people who don’t get to choose. We must be their advocates.
The residents of Grenfell did not choose to live in an unsafe building. They made every attempt to highlight problems, raise their concerns and seek action on safety. There are hundreds of thousands of people now living in buildings that are plagued by unsafe cladding, in homes they cannot sell, and with the cost of remedial works leaving many in financial crisis.
There is still much to do, and as an industry, each of us must choose to do better.