“Biggest Changes to Building Safety in a Generation”

HOUSING SECRETARY Robert Jenrick MP has announced reforms to building safety calling them the “biggest changes in a generation”.

New measures include mandatory sprinkler systems and wayfinding signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall.

The independent construction expert David Hancock has also been appointed to review the progress of unsafe ACM claddings from buildings.

The reforms are designed to incentivise compliance and to better enable the use of enforcement powers and sanctions, including prosecution where the rules are not followed.

Mortgage valuations

The Housing Secretary will hold a roundtable with mortgage lenders to work on an agreed approach to mortgage valuations for properties in buildings under 18 metres tall, providing certainty for owners affected by vital building safety work.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said, “The government is bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation.

“Today we have made a major step towards this by publishing our response to the Building a Safer Future consultation. This new regime will put residents’ safety at its heart, and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1 billion fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the Budget.”

A new website is being designed for lenders and leaseholders to access the information needed to proceed with sales and re-mortgaging on high rise homes affected by dangerous cladding.

The measures include:

  • providing £1 billion in 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high-rise buildings. This is in addition to the £600 million already announced for remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding
  • naming building owners who have been slow to act in removing unsafe ACM cladding
  • the introduction of the Fire Safety Bill

Cladding testing

The latest non-ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding testing results have been published today and show that none of the materials, including high-pressure laminate (HPL) and timber cladding, behaved in the same way as ACM.

The tests carried out by BRE show that aluminium honeycomb panels, reconstituted stone panels and brick slip systems “exhibited a relatively low contribution to fire development characterised by heat release rate and fire spread”.

The government says that any unsafe materials should be removed from buildings quickly. These include external wall systems on high-rise buildings using Class C or D HPL panels.

Work to remove unsafe cladding from buildings is regarded as critical to public safety and so is a top priority in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Building Safety Regulator

Earlier this year, the government announced that it is creating a new, national Building Safety Regulator, under the Health and Safety Executive.

The new regulator will enforce the new regulatory regime and oversee safety and performance across all buildings. It will be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during the design, construction, occupation and refurbishment stages of buildings in scope.

Residents will have new rights to receive information about the safety of their building and be able to request access to safety information.

The government has also said that construction products have a critical impact on building safety and it will establish a national construction products regulatory role to strengthen the existing regulatory regime.

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