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Event Summary

Building Safety Act: Implementing in practice | Summary, photos, and slides

Meeting the demands of the legislation is presenting a massive challenge for many people across the property world, and will affect everyone from early technical designers to agents managing completed buildings.

This Place North event, held on June 18 at Voco (formerly Hotel Brooklyn) in association with Project Four, law firm JMW, engineering designer Hydrock now Stantec, and building surveyor Earl Kendrick, took a deep dive into some of the issues the legislation is posing to the industry.

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Change

Paul Unger, founder and publisher of Place North, opened proceedings with a reminder of why the root and branch review of the industry was necessary in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster seven years ago, and how roles are being redefined in light of the BSA.

Ross Huntingdon, associate director at AEW Architects, set the tone by explaining the BSA should be seen as positive in his opening presentation: “It’s a good thing we’re doing what we’re doing.

“We must try and remind ourselves that all this documentation here before us, none of it is particularly new. What it does do is refines things we should have been doing for years.”

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Ross Huntingdon, associate director at AEW Architects speaking at Place North’s Building Safety Act conference, said the legislation should be seen in a positive light.

Nasar Ishfaq, director at Project Four, explained that the industry needs to understand the legislation applies to all buildings: “This new process applies to all buildings, and while most of the market has been focusing on the high risk buildings, the same process overall applies to non-high risk buildings.

“We are expecting and already experiencing a level of inconsistency across the market as people on both sides get to grips with how much information they need to produce, and equally how much information they want to receive and assess before they allow this project to go on.”

He added: “People are receptive, they want to do the right thing and don’t mind their hand being held. We’re seeing that across the market.”

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Nasar Ishfaq, director at Project Four, explained that the industry needs to understand the legislation applies to all buildings.

Costs and innovation

Jamie Sutton, senior development manager at Glenbrook, said upfront costs are becoming more of a challenge in light of the legislation, but one the developer is up for: “This is probably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the construction industry in my lifetime.

“If you look at the landscape, the way in which we’re changing procurement, design, the way in which we’re funding buildings, it is a huge change. It’s an opportunity for us to change and upskill an industry. We’ve innovate as an industry and we’re up for the challenge.”

Ellie Philcox, director at Euan Kellie Property Solutions, gave a planning perspective, adding that accuracy is crucial when lodging applications: “It’s certainly not getting any easier to get planning consent at the moment with politics and resource challenges, so from my perspective we need to be going in for planning at the stage when we’re confident it’s right first time.”

Philcox added that there would likely be an impact on land values: “Something which we’ve probably seen the end of in a more urban context is outline consent.

“For a long time outline consent has taken a certain amount of work and attributed a certain value to a piece of land. I think those days are gone.”

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Ellie Philcox, director at Euan Kellie Property Solutions, said the days of securing outline consent could be gone.

Garry Bowker, northern regional managing director at Vinci, said he is already seeing longer pre-construction periods: “The insurance market is one of the problems at the moment. The PI market for designers and contractors is horrific.”

“Early contractor involvement is the way forward. We’ve all got to work a lot more closer together and a lot more joined up.”

Golden thread

The golden thread approaching construction, of keeping a digital record throughout the process and ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time, was a theme throughout the event.

Aman Sharma, chief executive officer at Totus Digital, said the journey from gateway two where the building safety regulator is happy a building meets the requirement of regulations to gateway three where a completion certificate is issued, remains similar: “They are regulations that underpin those original philosophies that we should have always been working to in the first instance.

“The key thing for me as we iterate and normalize what a construction phase looks like in practice will be what are the mechanisms in place that ensure what you told the regulator you would do at gateway two manifests itself at gateway three.”

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Aman Sharma, chief executive officer at Totus Digital said the journey from gateway two to gateway three would remain similar.

Colin Blatchford-Brown, partner at Project Four, said complying with building regulations and being able to provide evidence of compliance is ever more crucial: “The evidence is what you now need at gateway three to show to the regulator that you have indeed done that and there should be no surprises in your finished product in terms of compliance with building regulations.

“If you’re already doing that all you now need to do is gather the evidence. It’s gathering the golden thread of information throughout the life of that project.”

He added: “Effectively you’re trying to keep record of who has done what, who has responsibility and accountability for which elements.

“Gateway three is the final step in that journey so you have the opportunity to say to the regulator ‘here’s what I’ve built and it complies, here’s all the accompanying information’.”

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Jess Stanway, associate at JMW, said the legislation has increased the legal risks to those in the industry.

Risk

Jess Stanway, associate at JMW, said the legislation has increased the legal risks to those in the industry: “There’s a lot more new routes to claims, a lot more risk at every stage for developers, contractors.

“It completely extends our ability to pursue people and leaves you with a lot of risk that you can’t isolate in the same way that you were able to previously.

“We’ve got this ability to pursue associated companies so you can’t settle SPV’s anymore for individual buildings. We can now look at parent companies, other entities that there are perhaps in your corporate structure which leaves you vulnerable.”

Stanway said that while the insurance market might see its own challenges arising from the legislation, the importance of record keeping is paramount for everyone: “As lawyers always say, keep records of absolutely everything. That’s one way to protect yourself if you’ve taken that role.”

James McNay, divisional director for fire safety at Hydrock, now Stantec, said risk tolerability is something which tends to change over time: “Societal perception around risk has changed and that’s exactly the same with respect to buildings.”

McNay added that developers providing a safety case is increasingly important: “It’s a little bit of a driver for them to get a safety case that can show the building actually operates as intended, that it will be safe in the event of a fire as that will then help the value of the property and development being maintained.”

“The digital golden thread is that documentation that shows your working of how the building is going to work.”

Finishing on a positive note,  McNay said the overarching takeaway should be for those in the industry to “have an interest in how the building works”.


What’s next?

Join Place North at one of our upcoming events:

North East Emerging Development Hotspots | 27 June

Sustainability in Practice: Retrofit | 4 July

Manchester Summer Social | 12 July


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