Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 Building Safety has been a high priority for both the UK and Scottish Governments.
The approaches taken by the UK and Scottish Governments differ. It is important to be aware of the rules that will apply to construction projects depending on where they are in the UK.
The UK Government has sought to overhaul building safety through the Building Safety Bill which is currently before Parliament. This is a UK wide Bill but only limited parts of it will affect Scotland:
- Part 5 (s. 135-136) sets out requirements for Architects in relation to CPD and discipline.
- Schedule 1 contains amendments to the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
- Schedule 9 sets out provisions to regulate the marketing and supply of construction products.
The Scottish Government is carrying out an ongoing review of Building Regulations which has included legislation passed in 2019 with regard to fire safety, the use of ESW1 assessments and since 2021 Single Building Assessments. There have also been consultations held with the construction industry; the most recent being “Building regulations – compliance and enforcement”.
This consultation looked at:
- A new role in the form of a Compliance Plan Manager (CPM) in relation to high Risk Building types.
- The definition of High Risk Buildings requiring a CPM.
- Fines and penalties.
- Impact assessments.
Scottish Building Regulations are already more robust than those in England with a key requirement in Scotland (Part 2 of Schedule 5 to The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004) being that buildings are designed to inhibit the spread of fire in cavities, on the external walls and between neighbouring buildings. In contrast the English requirement ( Part B of Schedule 1, Building Regulations 2010) is that the external walls adequately resist the spread of fire. In 2019, fire resistance standards were introduced to change the minimum height of a building that must have non-combustible cladding from 18m to 11m.
In addition the Scottish Government have also provided an Advice Note on fire risk in multi-storey residential buildings.
Single Building Assessment inspections started in 2021 and were focussed on the 25 highest risk buildings. It is hoped that these assessments will provide a realistic review of the remediation needed and will then inform future legislation. It is understood that the Scottish Government will be funding these assessments.
There are no firm proposals from the Scottish Government about the remediation of existing buildings. The Scottish Government seem to be taking a holistic approach by reviewing the affected buildings in order to make informed decisions on the steps required for remediation and future regulation of buildings in Scotland. Although there will be funding available for the safety assessments it is unclear if this will stretch to cover the necessary remediation works and there are concerns that the Government may look to developers to meet these costs. However, in order to enforce this the Government would have to pass legislation requiring payment by developers which is likely to be met with resistance from the industry.