What the Building Safety Bill means for UK construction – and how to get ready

In April 2022, the UK government’s Building Safety Bill received Royal Assent making it the Building Safety Act. This legislation promises significant change for the whole sector – from construction businesses and building owners and operators through to insurers and public safety organisations.

The UK government is aiming to create lasting generational change by “setting out a clear pathway on how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe.”

The intention behind the bill is resetting safety standards in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Fire tragedy, with greater checks and balances to prevent similar disasters in the future.

But these changes will go further than safety alone; there’s the potential for a seismic shift in how construction is planned and executed. In particular, every business – from sole traders to serial owners – will need to reconsider how they use technology to meet the new requirements, which could bring significant wider benefits.

Understandably, these changes might be daunting. We’ve partnered with experts at BESA, Cast Consultancy, Mace and PointFuse to create a guide to understand the impact of the Building Safety Bill – and propose how to prepare today.

Download the full white paper, How to prepare for the Building Safety Bill

The changes in the Building Safety Bill

The key change in the Building Safety Bill is that building owners will need to prove that they have effective, proportionate measures in place to manage safety risks for high-rise residential buildings.

Everybody will have a responsibility to collect, store and share more data to create a golden thread of information for the lifespan of a building, from planning and construction through to occupation. This golden thread must be stored in a digital format.

For owners of existing buildings, that means creating an accurate, as-built record of facilities as they stand today. For new projects, it requires evidence about how work is actually completed – making construction firms even more accountable for the quality of what they build.

Building owners will also be responsible for ensuring clear lines of responsibility for safety, with duty holders and an accountable person.

A new Gateway system will ensure building safety is considered at every stage of design and construction. The new Building Safety Regulator will oversee the implementation and enforcement of the legislation – with stringent penalties for noncompliance that could include criminal charges.

Our white paper has a stage by stage guide to the requirements at every Gateway.

How will this impact my business?

Owners: Arguably building owners face the biggest challenge from the Building Safety Bill. It will be critical to have systems in place to receive, and then manage and maintain, project data throughout the operational life of an asset. Owners will need to consider the best way to structure information to ensure that it’s as easy to manage and access as possible when needed.

Main contractors: Many main contractors have been looking to improve the quality and depth of information they provide to owners for some time. But the new regulations will require an even greater level of transparency and information sharing. These changes will help contractors to build right first time – ultimately reducing delays, costly rework and waste, as well as improving on-site safety.

Subcontractors: All subcontractors will need to provide good evidence that their workforce is properly skilled to deliver on a project, and that all work is completed and compliant, using digital technology. Many subcontractors will be able to access and use valuable information for the first time, opening up potential benefits and avoiding disputes with clients.

Architects: As duty holders during design and modifications, architects will need a greater focus on demonstrating compliance. Attention to detail and full transparency will become more important than ever, but at the same time facilitate closer working relationships with the client and other stakeholders.

How technology can help

Technology will be critical for all construction stakeholders. Positively, there are tried and tested workflows and tools that can help firms of every size to prepare – and firms that are just starting on their digital journeys can learn from those that have been there before.

Businesses have a wide range of choice, given that the legislation doesn’t specify a particular software or tool. Building Information Modelling (BIM) based workflows will be highly valuable, as information is updated in real-time in the cloud and available to every stakeholder on the project as required.

Common data environments (CDEs) can provide a secure, accessible place to store all critical information. Construction management software can prove compliance during the build phase, and reality capture technology can scan any existing building for an accurate, as-built model.

Importantly, technology can not only enable businesses to demonstrate their compliance with the Building Safety Bill, but also gives firms the data needed to improve outcomes like quality, productivity and sustainability.

It is also possible to continue to add high value capabilities, like design coordination tools or digital twins, so organisations can keep improving their performance and be ready for future developments.

The foundations for a better industry

The Building Safety Bill will require a far greater level of information-sharing and transparency across the industry. It’s understandable that organisations might be wary about potential delays and costs.

However, it’s critical that every construction stakeholder understands the changes ahead and gets prepared. While the legislation will initially apply to buildings over 18 metres, it may well be extended in the future – and the changes could impact everyone in the industry.  

But it’s also important to embrace the positives that the bill offers. We have a chance to evaluate how we work and establish best practice in construction, creating an industry we can all be proud of.

Download the full white paper, How to prepare for the Building Safety Bill, for more guidance on what you need to do at every project stage and the technology available to help.

Matt Keen

Sr. Industry Strategist, Autodesk Construction Solutions