Industry Insights April/May 2022: Regulatory Reforms Begin to Take Shape

By Jodie Affleck | May 30, 2022

Welcome to the April/May 2022 edition of Industry Insights, where we sum up the key headlines of the past couple of months in the construction industry. This has been a busy period, with a distinct focus on regulatory reform and ‘levelling up’ our sector to create a more energy efficient, safer built environment for all. However, with the economy taking a hard hit, the cost of living rising, and national and local resources squeezed, there will certainly be challenges to enacting these ahead. 

Building Safety Bill becomes the Building Safety Act 

On the 29th April 2022, the Building Safety Bill gained Royal Assent, creating the Building Safety Act. This mammoth 252-page bill containing hundreds of clauses, is intended to “create lasting generational change” to how we design, construct, and maintain high-risk and residential buildings following the 2017 Grenfell fire. Amongst the many initiatives contained within the Act, one of the most notable is the introduction of a Construction Products Regulator, who will be responsible for checking the safety of products on the market and removing any that could be considered dangerous.  

We are still waiting to understand how exactly the clauses of the Act will look in practice with the release of secondary legislation (the government has released a rough transition plan). However, concerns have already been flagged, especially with regards to Professional Indemnity Insurance. Industry body, RICS commented that it “feels that the professional indemnity insurance (PII) market remains too weak to meet the needs of the industry” and calls for the government to find a solution to the PII issue to ensure the quick implementation of the Act and to keep the construction sector moving. Read the full comment piece here.  

 

Fire Safety Act comes into force 

Another key piece of safety legislation to come out of the regulatory shake up following Grenfell is the Fire Safety Act, which commenced on 16th May 2022. This is a short Act created to clarify the parts of a building covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). It states that: 

“Where a building contains 2 or more sets of domestic premises, the FSO applies to: 

  • the building’s structure and external walls (including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings) and any common parts 
  • all doors between domestic premises and common parts such as flat entrance doors (or any other relevant door)” 

This addition of these parts means that anyone considered a ‘Responsible Person’ under the FSO— such as building developers, owners, and/or managers—must undertake a new risk assessment of their building as soon as possible. Read more on the government website. 

Queen’s Speech 2022 – built environment is key focus in legislation agenda  

On the 10th May 2022, Prince Charles delivered the Queen’s Speech, highlighting some of the laws ministers expect to pass over the next 12 months. One of the most significant for the whole construction industry was the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This wide-reaching bill looks to empower Local Authorities, intending to “improve the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing”. A key part of this is encouraging community consultation with the idea of “street votes”. This will give residents the chance to propose new developments on their street, and take planning powers into their own hands, holding referendums on whether a project should receive planning permission or not. Whilst for some this has been a welcome consideration, it has also been met with scepticism, with concerns it will over complicate an already complicated process— especially in light of the fact planners are facing resourcing difficulties already.  

 

Industry leaders to create UK standard for verifying net-zero buildings 

On the 13th May 2022, it was announced that a group of leading industry organisations are working together to create the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard to set the requirements for achieving and verifying a built asset as net zero carbon in the UK. Designed to be applicable to all buildings eventually, it will focus on setting out the metrics by which net zero carbon performance is evaluated, with performance targets that align with the science-based trajectories needed to achieve net zero by 2050.  

This is a truly cross-industry initiative, backed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Carbon Trust, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE). Additional members of the steering group are The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), Building Research Establishment (BRE), London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  

The initiative is currently forming task groups to deal with the areas it feels it must tackle. To learn more and get involved, visit: https://www.nzcbuildings.co.uk/  

 

Government’s boiler upgrade scheme is launched 

Keeping with the theme of reducing UK carbon emissions by 2050, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is now open to applications. Part of the £3.9bn Heat and Buildings Strategy funding, it is offering grants of £5,000 for homeowners to have air source heat pumps installed, and £6,000 for ground source heat pumps. A £5,000 grant is also available for biomass boilers for homes in rural locations, not connected to the gas grid and with an emissions certificate showing that polluting emissions are kept to a minimum. The scheme is installer-led, meaning it is up to your chosen installer to recommend the best boiler for your property, advise on any energy efficiency measures that need to be undertaken, and apply for the grant on your behalf. BUS is only available in England and Wales, and only for existing properties (not new builds).  

This article by the Energy Savings Trust provides more detail about how you can apply and how the process works.