Which buildings will be called in first by the Building Safety Regulator?

Following the tragic events at Grenfell in 2017, and the subsequent Building Safety Act that was passed in 2022, there are now greater responsibilities placed on the owners and those responsible for high rise, Higher-Risk Buildings in England.

A Higher-Risk Building, or HRB is a building that is either over 18m in height or 7 storeys, with 2 or more residential dwellings. Each building has one or several ‘Accountable Persons’ which is the name given to those who are legally responsible for the maintenance and safety of part or all of the building. There must also be a named ‘Principal Accountable Person’ too.

The Building Safety Register

All HRBs must now be registered with the new Building Safety Register and a new body called the Building Safety Regulator, which falls under the Health and Safety Executive, has been created to oversee the register and ensure that all HRBs meet the new compliance requirements in line with the Building Safety Act.

All existing HRBs should have been registered with the Building Safety Register by 1st October this year.

There are an estimated 13,500 HRBs in England, of which only around 12,500 have been registered with the Building Safety Register.  This leaves an estimated one thousand HRBs still non-compliant, and their Principal Accountable Person at risk of fines and prosecution, which could even lead to jail time.

In a recent webinar attended by FRC’s Building Safety Team, a representative from the BSR indicated that they urgently want the Principal Accountable Persons responsible for these unregistered buildings to come forward as quickly as possible to remedy the situation. They have even hinted that they may be more lenient to those who step forward to rectify the issue willingly rather than waiting to be found out.

Which HRBs will be called in first?

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:

  1. Height

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

How we can help

This is not an exhaustive list of course, and only the Building Safety Regulator knows what their exact plan of action will be, but we hope this may provide some insight as the HRBs likely to be invited to present their Safety Case to the Regulator first, from April next year.

Here at FRC we specialise in helping you to keep your buildings safe, compliant, insurable and future-proofed.

Unlike many of our competitors, we provide a truly complete service from inception to completion, using our fully employed staff and selected partners. There’s less hassle for you, and no need for you to arrange or manage external contractors.

FRC is a member of the Cladding Safety Scheme which means we can apply for funding on your behalf to remediate your building.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you, please do get in touch today and we will be happy to tailor our service to your requirements.

Email enquiries@frconsultants.co.uk or call 01794 332456

Your building’s safety is our business.

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