Are you up to speed with the Building Safety Act? Part 2

In addition to the completion statement, it is also necessary to show evidence that information relating to fire safety has been passed on at the end of a project. 

Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction Consultants www.wilkinsoncc.co.uk



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Details should also be provided of all the following:

  1. Specifications of any fire safety equipment provided, including routine maintenance schedules
  2. Any assumptions made in design regarding the management of the building in the design of the fire safety arrangements
  3. Provisions for the evacuation of disabled people

This will ultimately be tested by the courts but, as the Building Safety Regulator is now effectively the Health and Safety Executive in a new guise, we can look at past case law to get some idea. A key case is that involving Mario Minchella, where the architects were held liable as they had not given contractors sufficient relevant information about the flammability of the timber frame used in the construction of the building.

It must also be accompanied by a declaration given by each principal contractor for the work and each principal designer on the scheme that they fulfilled their duties under the Building Regulations. The building control body will not be able to issue a final certificate without receiving the signed declarations.

This has already raised many questions about liability and to what extent the liability of others is covered by the principal designer’s declaration. For example, is the architect, as principal designer, responsible for the designs of the structural or mechanical engineer on the project? What about works deemed to be contractor design portions – who is responsible for that?

Until such time as case law is developed, the PD would be well advised to ensure that all risks are identified, as much information as possible is passed on, and a thorough check is made of the competency of any consultants or designers that they could find themselves liable for. They may also want to secure contractual undertakings, such as the PD declaration from anyone else on the design team to help mitigate any potential issues.

It will take some time to fully establish in case law the extent of liabilities and the correct legal interpretations under the new legislation. However, architects should beware that simply failing to identify risk, or leaving risk to others, may well result in enforcement action against a project’s principal designer.

The notice must be on a standard form and include the name, address, telephone number and email address of the client, principal contractor and principal designer (PD). The statement must confirm that the building work is complete, and, to the best of the client’s knowledge, that the building work complies with the Building Regulations. 

The architect should not then be liable for any design or construction changes beyond the point of the changeover. They would potentially hold liability for any risks that were not identified prior to the changeover, as occurred in the Minchella case above.

Under the newly introduced Building Safety Act, the client must give a notice of practical completion to the building control body (BCB) before they can sign the works off with a completion/final certificate (this relates to projects outside the Higher-Risk Buildings process, where additional responsibilities apply).

Again, this raises questions about how architects should go about this if they have not been retained for the construction phase. I would take the opinion that the concept of the Golden Thread should be applied, and that the architect should develop this information as fully as possible during the design stage. If they are not retained, then they should notify the BCB that they are no longer the principal designer and who on the contractor side is going to be performing this role going forwards.

For complex buildings, additional detail is required.

The required information includes an as-built plan, showing all of the following:

  1. Escape routes. This should include exit capacity (ie the maximum allowable number of people for each storey and for the building).
  2. The location of fire-separating elements (including cavity barriers)
  3. Fire doors
  4. Locations of detectors, alarm call points, control panels, sounders, fire safety signage, emergency lighting, fire mains and other firefighting equipment and hydrants outside the building
  5. Any sprinkler systems, including isolating valves and control equipment
  6. Any smoke control systems or ventilation systems with a smoke control function, including their mode of operation and control systems
  7. Any high-risk areas (eg heating machinery).