The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, and with it comes important changes ‘that give residents and homeowners more rights, powers, and protections.’ Ultimately, this will make sure that buildings across the country are safe to occupy.
The Act surpasses existing regulations to establish lasting change by outlining how residential and multi-occupancy buildings should be constructed and maintained.
The Building Safety Regulator will be responsible for the building control of higher-risk buildings. These are buildings, including hospitals and care homes, which are at least seven storeys and contain two residential units.
The Gateways play a key role in helping the regulator achieve this. They ensure building and fire safety is considered from design and construction through to the completion and occupation of a building.
The Gateways reassure the regulator that the building is compliant with regulations and work to support the golden thread of information. This is ‘the information about a building that allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe.’
The Gateways: the stages
- Gateway one: the planning application stage
- Gateway two: before the construction stage
- Gateway three: when construction work is complete
Gateways two and three are decision points that must be passed before the project can continue onto the next stage.
The Gateways explained
Gateway one was introduced in August 2021. This is known as ‘planning Gateway one’ which ensures fire safety is considered at the planning stage for projects involving high-rise buildings.
Fire safety matters include the layout of the site, safe escape routes and secure access for firefighters.
The planning authority must consult with the building safety regulator (HSE) and a fire statement will be mandatory when requesting planning approval. Further guidance can be found here.
Gateway one has been in force for over a year now, and in recent months the HSE has flagged concerns on more than 50% of proposals.
Construction Management reported that, “Common fire safety design issues HSE has identified in applications to date include smoke vents and external wall openings close to neighbouring properties and restricted or non-existent access for fire appliances.”
Commenting on this, Dame Judith Hackitt believes that developers and construction firms are “still trying to game the system” and “not taking building safety seriously.”
Gateway two is to be introduced no more than 18 months from when the Act received royal assent; it is estimated to be no later than October 2023.
Before construction can start, a building control approval application must be submitted to the regulator. This document will need to include, as stated on the government website:
- how the proposals comply with building regulations’ requirements;
- how the new dutyholder competence, golden thread and mandatory occurrence reporting requirements will be met;
- that they have appropriate strategies to manage the construction phase to support building regulations compliance and reduce the possibility of building safety risks arising.
Between Gateways two and three
Once the building control application has been approved by the regulator, and the project can move into the construction stage, those involved in the design and construction will need to meet ongoing requirements.
This includes ongoing communication and competence in the design and construction of the building; meeting tough record-keeping requirements; reporting any fire and structural safety occurrences that take place and following the statutory change management requirements.
Like Gateway two, Gateway three is to be expected no later than October 2023.
Gateway three, the final stage, is where clients will have to submit a completion certificate application, with the help of the dutyholders. Plans and documents that show how the building was built are required and the application must also show how the building complies with the regulation requirements. A certificate will be issued upon application approval.
All of this information will help to form part of the golden thread.
The building safety regulator has a potential approval period of 12 weeks and therefore, this may have an impact on project start times. This will be due to the volume of applications and any concerns that are raised by the building safety regulator.
Regulations are there for a reason. Unfortunately, even with the introduction of the Building Safety Act and the Gateway regime, building and fire safety are still not being taken seriously enough.
It is important to get ahead and stay up to date with new regulations. The time to change is now, not when regulations force you to do so.