With the deadline of April 2024 looming, most PAPs and their agents are currently working very hard to put together a Building Safety Case, underpinned by a ‘Golden Thread’ of supporting information, and create and implement a meaningful Residents Engagement Strategy along with a Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Strategy for each building they are responsible for.
The BSR has advised that they are aiming to call in and review the Safety Case Report for every HRB over the next five years, but the question remains that we do not know the exact order that the Building Safety Cases for these HRBs will be called in.
This leaves some uncertainty about how much time is left to prepare.
The Building Safety Team here at FRC have been following the Building Safety Regulator closely when it comes to this question, and prior to April 2024, we understand that the regulator will first of all be focussing on chasing down the unregistered HRBs that should be on the Building Safety Register as their first priority. If you have not yet registered your HRB, you should do so immediately.
From April 2024, the BSR will be inviting Principal Accountable Persons to submit their Building Safety Cases & Reports. They have advised that they are aiming to call buildings in based on a risk-proportionate approach. This means that the buildings that would be likely to post the greatest risk to life-safety of their residents and users will be called in first.
We have reason to believe that they will be prioritising the first tranches based on the following criteria:
The tallest buildings would logically seem to pose the greatest risk to life safety in the event of a fire or structural event requiring an evacuation, so we believe the Building Safety Regulator will be focussing on those first. It obviously takes a longer amount of time to evacuate everyone from a taller building than a shorter one, and many taller buildings only have one stairwell.
While height is certainly important to the BSR, there are also a number of other factors that come into play when considering which HRBs pose the greatest risk to life safety, which in combination may help us to predict which buildings are likely to be called in, in the first tranches.
- Aluminium Cladding Material
We know that buildings with un-remediated Aluminium Cladding Material (ACM) will also be targeted very early on in the first tranches to be called in.
ACM is a very dangerous and highly flammable type of cladding found on many buildings. This type of cladding was one of the reasons that the fire at Grenfell was so deadly.
The Building Safety Fund was set up in 2020 to pay for the cost of removing & replacing ACM on HRBs. This scheme was replaced by the current Cladding Safety Scheme (which includes medium-rise buildings 11-18m), so there is little excuse for PAPs to not at least begin to take steps towards remediation of this issue.
In their new 2023-2026 Strategic Plan issued last month, the BSR advised that they expect all Aluminium Cladding Material (ACM) to have been removed or to be in the process of being removed by April 2026, so this is clearly an issue that they are putting as a high priority.
- Large Panel Systems
Buildings constructed entirely or in part using Large Panel System concrete are also of particular interest to the BSR due to their higher risk of disproportionate collapse.
LPS buildings were constructed in the 60s and 70s using a very specific type of concrete panels. Unfortunately due to shoddy production of the LPS panels, and poor workmanship when installing them, many of these buildings are structurally unsound and vulnerable in the event of explosion. This vulnerability was first discovered after the partial building collapse at Ronan Point in 1968, where four people were killed when a gas canister exploded inside a flat on the 18th floor and dislodged load bearing walls, causing the collapse of one entire corner of the building.
Some LPS buildings have had strengthening works carried out since construction, and steps may have been taken to minimise risk such as banning gas bottles within the blocks, however it is believed that there are many that are still un-remediated, and these LPS buildings could cause a serious threat to life safety in the event of an incident.