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As the Building Safety Act’s comprehensive new residential building safety laws came into force on 1 October 2023, here’s a quick recap of what it means for the construction sector.

The Building Safety Act (BSA) is designed to improve the standards of all buildings by assuring the safety of higher-risk buildings, both in construction and after tenants occupy them. It also aims to build the skillset of those responsible for overseeing, managing, and delivering works to higher-risk buildings. The act provides clearer standards and guidance for contractors and tenants, further prioritising residents’ safety.

Building Safety Act timeline    

1 October 2023

  • Registration deadline for existing occupied buildings. Since 1 October, all new buildings should have been registered before being occupied by residents.  
  • Building inspector and building control approver registers open.
  • The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) becomes the new building control authority for high-rise residential buildings.
  • Since 1 October 2023 onwards, developers must apply to the BSR for building-control approval before commencing work on any high-rise buildings.

April 2024

  • The BSR starts to assess buildings and issue Building Assessment Certificates.
  • Requirements related to registration for building inspectors and building-control approvers become enforceable.

BSA: The terminology

The Golden Thread  

The golden thread is key information responsibilities of owners or managers of HRB. It should include details of how safety risks are being managed to meet the golden thread requirements, including evidence. The golden thread information creates a responsibility for the owner to understand and manage the safety of their buildings and ensure it is accurate and easily understandable.

What is an occupied “Higher-Risk Building”?  

A higher-risk building (HRB) is defined as a building in England that:

  • is either at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys (excluding basements and independent sections which comply with specific requirements), and   
  • contains at least two residential units (where a residential unit is defined as a dwelling or any other unit of living accommodation).

Mixed-use buildings can still qualify as HRBs (if they meet the size criteria), so properties used as both a hospital and partly as boarding for university students need to be registered before occupation. The Government provides more detailed guidance on the criteria for an occupied HRB.

Who is the “Principal Accountable Person” (PAP)?  

An “accountable person” is an organisation or individual that owns or is legally responsible for repairs to common areas within the building. Sometimes, there is more than one accountable person.  

What are the responsibilities of the PAP?   

The PAP will work with the contractor to ensure detailed information about the HRB’s structure and fire safety protocols is communicated during the registration process, including:  

  • The PAP’s contact details and address of the HRB  
  • The number of floors at or above ground level and the HRB’s height in metres  
  • Materials used for external walls and structure and roof
  • What the building is used for, and the number of residential units
  • The year the HRB was originally built
  • Evacuation strategies, including fire and smoke control equipment
  • Details of all fire doors and staircases
  • Energy supplies, storage and generation
  • Any building work since the HRB was originally built and connections to other buildings

How does the BSA affect buildings under planning or construction?  

The BSA 2022 applies to both occupied buildings and those under construction. New buildings which fall within the regime and are “completed” after 1 October must be registered before the building is occupied.

Under the new regime, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will be responsible for all regulatory decisions relating to the design and construction of HRBs before occupation.   

  • HRBs under construction or where works have not started should have submitted an initial notice or complete plans to the local authority by 1 October 2023.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note, we have relied on information sourced from third parties, and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to the fullest extent permitted by law.