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The Building Safety Alliance, an independent industry led ‘not for profit’ organisation, has launched with the purpose of implementing the certification of competent individuals wishing to deliver the role of a Building Safety Manager (BSM) and a publicly accessible register of those certified by the scheme.
As well as being a named Supporter of the Building Safety Alliance, ARMA will also serve as a Council member alongside other organisations from across the sector managing the occupation phase. ARMA's Health and Safety Advisor, Mark Snelling, will serve as one of the Alliance's three Interim Executives.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy brought to the fore how the safety of all buildings needs to be ensured. Recognising the role they play in delivering safe buildings, representatives of both the public and private sector have come together to deliver the change in culture needed and the uniform standard of competence that residents should expect from those responsible for their safety.
The Building Safety Alliance will deliver initially two functions:
In due course, they will also work with others to evaluate how organisations who wish to deliver the function of the BSM can be assessed as having the organisational capability to do so and how to assist contractors and suppliers to higher risk buildings to deliver a competent workforce that understands how to ensure that residential buildings are safe for residents.
The Building Safety Alliance will play an essential role in helping to improve the competence of those responsible for managing buildings so they can deliver safe homes for people. The Building Safety Bill, published on 5th July 2021, confirmed the new statutory role of the BSM, a concept first developed by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Review.
Anthony Taylor, Interim Chair of the Building Safety Alliance said: “I’m proud to continue to take forward and implement the recommendations from Working Group 8 (WG8) of the Competence Steering Group. When we were initially asked to develop the competence requirements for the new statutory role of BSM, we recognised that for the framework to work, we also needed to set up wider structures that would support the development of and drive for a recognised and uniform standard of competence.
“One of our key recommendations was the need for a register that would allow residents and accountable persons to check if the BSM for their building, meets the minimum competence requirements. Government is looking at Industry to deliver this, so we stepped forward with our wide consortium from across both the private and public sectors.”
Bob Smytherman, Chairman of the Federation of Private Residents Associations (representing 1000’s of long -leaseholders across England & Wales) said:
“Our leaseholder members will find themselves with new duties and responsibilities under the Building Safety Bill to ensure our buildings are as safe as possible. Our members will be looking to the Building Safety Manager as the stakeholder responsible for the day-to day building safety management of our buildings.
“We have a crucial role to play in the Building Safety Alliance, to make sure Building Safety Managers are not only competent but also understand the resident perspective when appointed to make our buildings safe. After all, these buildings are our homes and we pay the service charges.”
“We look forward to the register coming into existence, so that we can feel safer in our buildings, confident that any of the certified Building Safety Managers on the registers will meet the national competence standard most appropriate standard for our homes.”
The WG8 Competence Framework is now being translated into a MHCLG sponsored Publicly Available Specification (PAS), and once finalised, this PAS 8673 will be the standard to which the Building Safety Alliance will certify candidate BSMs against, before allowing them onto the Register. The PAS is being developed in parallel to the legislation to make sure certified BSMs will be delivered by the time the legislation becomes enforced.
For further information and updates please register your interest by clicking here.
On Wednesday 21st July the Building Safety Bill (BSB) had its second reading in the House of Commons. The session began with an opening statement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, which included announcements on the Building Safety Fund’s reopening and a new Government recommendation that buildings below 18 metres should not require an EWS1 form. The Bill was then debated among MPs.
Building Safety Fund to Reopen in the Autumn
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s opening statement included the announcement that the Building Safety Fund (BSF) will reopen for applications. In turn, any buildings that missed the original registration deadline for the BSF will be able to apply when registration for the fund reopens in the Autumn. MHCLG currently forecasts that the BSF will support works of some form on over 1,000 high-rise buildings.
Progress So Far
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick reported that almost 700 buildings (totalling £2.5 billion) are proceeding with a full application to the BSF "despite many buildings owners failing to provide adequate basic information". MHCLG has allocated £540 million through the Fund, which means owners of over 60,000 homes and properties within high-rise blocks are covered by BSF applications and can be reassured that unsafe non-ACM cladding on their blocks will be replaced.
Speaking on the Waking Watch Relief Fund, 191 buildings are already benefitting from the £30 million available.
Over 95% of buildings with ‘Grenfell type’ cladding identified at the beginning of last year have been fully remediated or have workers on site. This means that around 16,000 homes have been fully remediated of unsafe ACM cladding – an increase of around 4,000 since the end of last year.
Update on EWS1 Forms for Buildings Below 18m
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick reported back on recommendations from an expert panel (which included Dame Judith Hackitt among its panellists) appointed to review steps that should be taken to ensure that a more "risk-proportionate approach" is taken to fire safety in blocks of flats. It found that there is "no evidence of systemic risk of fire in blocks of flats".
The panel's recommendations were that:
HSBC UK, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and others have supported this advice, which will now pave the way for EWS1 forms to no longer be required for buildings below 18m and will help "further unlock the housing market".
Latest indications are that the number of residential blocks between 11m and 18m in height are 61,000. Data from one major lender suggests that 7% of flats in buildings up to six storeys currently require an EWS1 assessment and in most of these cases, EWS1 forms are found to already be held, leading to requests for an EWS1 form on approximately 5% of flats.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick reiterated that if the market reacts as MHCLG is hoping then this would reduce further, and hundreds of thousands of leaseholders will be able to get on with buying, selling or re-mortgaging their homes.
Other Points Covered
Once finally presented, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick also stated that:
Responding to the statement, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Lucy Powell showed her frustration at the timing of the Bill and its delay, since it was three years after the Hackitt report. She also noted that the Building Safety Regulator’s scope should go further than buildings of 18m and that the HCLG Committee and the Fire Brigades Union stressed it should be extended to 18m or four stories. She said the scope of the BSB was too narrow, the deadlines too tight and administered too slowly. She also stated the guidance note issued in January 2020 brought all buildings at any height into scope of an EWS1 form, and questioned how this Bill affected that guidance.
The open debate on the Bill focussed on how the Bill falls short on several fronts and is overly focused on cladding. Prior to the reading, ARMA and its political advocacy group had met with several MPs to ensure that important industry points were raised during the debate. The most notable points raised included:
Welsh MPs that contributed to the debate pointed out:
Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said: “The Bill notes that works should now be "proportionate", but who will be responsible for judging what is proportionate on a block-by-block basis? We hope that the Health and Safety Executive will choose to step in on this important issue.’
We agree that EWS1 forms should no longer be needed for buildings below 18 metres, but this sentiment will only benefit leaseholders if mortgage lenders and insurers agree. Some of the largest banks were omitted from those mentioned in the Commons on Wednesday, how long will it be until the rest follow suit, if at all.”
The Bill will now enter its Committee Stage when Parliament returns in September.
You can read the full transcript of the Second Reading debate here.
Four years ago today, the UK experienced the worst residential fire since the Second World War. In the early hours of 14th June 2017, a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London. Over 250 firefighters battled to put out the blaze, but it would eventually claim 72 lives.
Building Safety Crisis Timeline
The tragedy sparked a national building safety crisis.
Despite progress in funding cladding remediation, there is an absence of government money to solve other areas of the building safety crisis. Internal fire safety issues and rising insurance premiums are just two of many costs which continue to be borne by leaseholders.
Non-Cladding Costs – Building A Picture
In the face of a lack of government research into the true scale of the building safety crisis, ARMA and IRPM have conducted surveys with their members. The findings reveal that the estimated non-cladding costs, such as compartmentation issues and fire breaks, for blocks above 18-metres average £14,000 per flat. Another element to consider is the impact of costs up to now. Recurring charges such as Waking Watch costs, have depleted reserve funds for many blocks, with the average per flat standing at just £911. The long term effect of this depletion of reserves means that planned works such as lift replacement or re-roofing will have to be funded via calls for cash rather than reserves carefully built up over time.
For blocks below 18 metres, these non-cladding costs average over £5,000 per flat. This cost will be in addition to the £50 a month loan charges for cladding remediation.
As the true scale of compartmentation issues in the current building stock remains unknown, ARMA and IRPM urge the government to carry out a centrally funded intrusive survey of, say, 300 buildings, spread across the public and private stock. This would likely cost around £3m, but will give government and industry clear sight of the scale of the problem, i.e., the frequency and severity of building safety failures.
Government also needs to bring together stakeholders including residents, building owners, building managers, insurers, mortgage lenders and fire risk experts, to have a “grown up conversation” on which remediation works are necessary and how risk can be managed in a proportionate and sensible way, so that we can understand the scope of work required. Remediation of unsafe buildings should be prioritised according to risk to life.
Only when government and industry understand both the scale and scope of building safety remedial work, can evidence based decisions and policy making be achieved.
ARMA & IRPM Cladding and Building Safety Campaign Group
ARMA and the IRPM have been fighting to help leaseholders throughout the cladding crisis. The two professional bodies for the residential block management sector lead the Cladding and Building Safety Campaign Group.
The Campaign Group is asking the government:
The Human Impact
The human impact of the building safety crisis has been profound, becoming further compounded by the pandemic. Many leaseholders remain trapped in their flats, unable to sell without a valid EWS1 form, as they face huge bills resulting from building safety defects.
A survey carried out by the UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG) in June 2020 with over 500 leaseholders revealed the scale of the mental health crisis among those impacted, with one in five leaseholders reporting suicidal thoughts. The scandal has also taken its toll on the property managers tasked with fixing the problems, with a recent ARMA and IRPM survey showing the huge stress placed on staff dealing with cladded buildings.
ARMA and IRPM Leaseholder and Media Resources
To aid leaseholders, ARMA and IRPM have today made available several resources to help leaseholders better understand the current cladding crisis and the responsibilities and actions of managing agents. In addition, ARMA is working on a whitepaper which will document the cladding crisis and its solutions from Grenfell to today.
The Future of Building Safety
Four years after Grenfell, ARMA and IRPM continue to campaign for the rights of leaseholders with the aim of protecting them from all building safety costs whilst finding workable solutions for the nation’s safety crisis.
Both bodies continue to lobby government and regularly feature on national television, radio and are quoted in newspapers, helping to draw attention to the lack of adequate funding. Most recently, IRPM and ARMA pledged to support the HCLG Committee’s calls to Government to re-commit to the principle that leaseholders should not have to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding from their homes. It also supported the Committee’s ask that the Government establish a Comprehensive Building Safety Fund that addresses the true scale of fire safety issues, with finance for the fund provided by government and the building industry.
Despite progress, there remain many unanswered questions around the building crisis. How widespread and costly are non-cladding related fire issues such as compartmentation? Will the funding for buildings below 18m be resolved, so leaseholders do not have to pay? How can we speed up cladding remediation with a shortage of experienced contractors? When will the current supply shortage end? When and how can insurance hikes for cladded buildings be reduced? Many of these questions will remain unanswered for several months, perhaps years, a clear signal that the crisis is far from over. But despite this, progress has been made, some buildings have been remediated and building safety is firmly on the government’s agenda. Solving the building crisis will not be a quick fix, however it’s clear that the country is committed to ensuring another Grenfell tragedy will never occur again.