Information

Building and Fire Safety Working Group minutes: June 2022

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 8 June 2022.


Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Chair)
  • Minister for Net Zero Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights
  • Minister for Community Safety
  • David Dourley, SFRS Area Commander
  • Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer
  • Brian McKenzie, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director, Safer Communities
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Chris Booth, Safer Communities Division
  • James Clark, Safer Communities Division
  • Simon Roberts, Better Homes Division
  • Alan Morrison, Deputy Director of Health Infrastructure, Investment and PPE
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • David Blair, Building Standards Division
  • Neil Mitchell, Building Standards Division
  • Hardip Devsi, Building Standards Division
  • Colette Templeton, Building Standards Division
  • Scott Young, Building Standards Division
  • William Hamilton, Building Standards Division
  • Terri O’Donnell, Building Standards Division

Apologies

  • Sean Neill, Director for Local Government and Housing
  • Catriona MacKean, Head of Better Homes Division

Items and actions

Welcome and action points from previous meeting

It was noted that the minutes of the previous Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety (MWG) meeting held on Wednesday 22 December 2021 were agreed and published.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  • further advice regarding the review of schedule 3 to be provided to Ministers in due course

           completed

  • advice to be provided to Ministers following analysis of the fire safety review consultation and recommendations to be taken forward

           completed

  • officials to provide Ministers with further advice after the publication of PAS 9980 to any potential impacts on the Scottish Advice Note

            an update paper is provided for discussion at agenda point 3

  • advice to be provided to Ministers in due course in regards to how the HRI can be expanded and/or improved

            an update paper is provided for discussion at agenda point 6

All actions have now been completed, no further comments were received from ministers.

Single building assessment and cladding remediation fund

Scottish Government (SG) officials provided an update on the Single Building Assessment (SBA), an approach that has been being trialled since summer 2021. A lot has been learnt through this process and the SG was now moving forward to a commissioning model. This will allow more SBAs to be completed and assist in moving forward towards remediation.

It was noted that the Scottish Safer Building Accord was announced in May 2022 and is the Scottish version of UK developer fund/pledge. The aim is to ensure that developers are responsible for buildings that they’ve built. This means that the Scottish Government expects builders to take responsibility for remediating issues.

Timescales on the expansion of the SBA programme were provided, moving from a pilot of 26 to 100 over the course of this year with the aim to double again the following year.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government discussed the new levy on the development of all residential buildings in England to fund their remediation programme. It was noted that a Scottish alternative is now being explored as a matter of urgency.

PAS 9980

SG officials gave an overview of the PAS 9980 and the Scottish Advice Note. PAS 9980 came into effect on 31 January 2022. The document offers a methodology for undertaking and reporting on the fire risk appraisal of external walls by competent persons. The PAS was sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and contains specific reference to legislation pertinent to buildings in England however, it can also be applied in the devolved nations, subject to care being taken to apply its recommendations.

PAS 9980 is focused on fire risk appraisals of external walls of existing multi-storey blocks of flats but can also be used on existing residential buildings including student accommodation, sheltered and other specialised housing and buildings converted into flats. The Scottish Advice Note (SAN) is used to identify risks posed by external wall systems, both the PAS 9980 and SAN are aimed at looking at risks towards life safety. The SAN is more focused on external cladding systems whilst PAS 9980 looks at external walls through to internal walls. Both of these documents are written in the context of national guidance. They shouldn’t be used in isolation but together with other guidance to form a holistic approach.

It was noted that there is some risk in applying PAS 9980 in Scotland unless those undertaking the assessment are aware of the differences in the regulatory regimes. For example, PAS 9980 makes reference to external wall systems in buildings 18 metres and above being non-combustible whereas in Scotland the benchmark for new build is 11 metres and above. PAS 9980 has good reference material e.g. materials commentary, but it is not perfectly tailored to the Scottish Regulations and system in its benchmarking references. However, the SAN has been specifically developed in the Scottish legislative context and supporting sector specific guides. The SAN also provides a key reference document to the current SBA programme.

Taken together, the SAN and PAS 9980, should not only minimise the risk to life safety for existing residential buildings, but will also assist those undertaking Single Building Assessments.

Following discussion, ministers requested that a note detailing the most important aspects of the SAN and the PAS 9980 be produced alongside a background note which would discuss the reasons why these documents may be used together.

  •  action point 1 – Officials to produce a note relating to the important aspects of SAN and PAS 9980, alongside a background note detailing the differences. (Post meeting note – submission sent on 14 June 2022.)

Change to building regulations – section 2 (fire) – external wall systems

SG officials provided an update to recent changes to building regulations that came into force on the 1 June 2022. The key points of these changes are

  • the introduction of a ban on the use of combustible materials in external wall cladding systems on dwellings and on other defined ‘relevant buildings’ with a storey at a height of 11 metres or more
  • the use of highly combustible metal composite material like that used on the Grenfell Tower is banned on all buildings in Scotland regardless of height
  • replacement cladding on buildings is now subject to current standards and requires a building warrant. Like-for-like cladding replacement is now limited to minor repair work
  • amendment to building standard 2.7 relating to the spread of fire on external walls to clarify the intent of the standard with regard to the height, use and position of the building

Dissemination events are due to commence on 27 June 2022 and will run for three months, holding three each month. There’s a possibility beyond that for face to face events.

It was noted that the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) anticipates that the increased estimated cost per annum of £1.7 million will be passed on by the developer to the clients.

From the 1 June 2022 England announced the ban on the material used at Grenfell extended to include all buildings regardless of height. A domestic ban of combustible external wall cladding systems over 11 metres is in place in Scotland with England having a ban over 18 metres for external walls of relevant buildings. For non-domestic buildings the ban is over 11 metres in Scotland and remains over 18 metres in England, but following the announcement on 1 June 2022 the UKG included hotels, hostels and boarding houses, blocks of flats, hospitals, student accommodation and dormitories in boarding schools over 18 metres. Also from 1 June 2022 announcement residential purpose group buildings between 11 metres and 18 metres will require A2 or better, but there is the option to use BS8414.

Following discussion, officials were asked to clarify when the changes in England will come into force as it was unclear if these changes are in place now or not.

  • action point 2 – officials to confirm when the changes regarding the ban of particular cladding materials comes into force in England (post meeting note – this will come into force on 1st December 2022 in England.)

UK Government building safety act 2022

Officials advised that the UK Government’s Building Safety Act 2022 was passed through the UK parliament in April 2022. It is predominantly relevant to England with respect to the new regime of higher risk buildings. The act establishes a Building Safety Regulatory in England which the Health and Safety England (HSE) has been working on for a few years now. The act should come into force next spring. This presents a challenge for SG and officials will continue to liaise with the UK Government and HSE.

The new regime is fully pre-emptive for buildings in scope (high rise residential), which mirrors Scotland’s building standards system for any warrantable works, with the design needing to be approved before any construction work starts in the future. The act is also looking to put in place a competent person for the safety of the life of the building. It also aims to give residents a stronger voice, including more powers and options to raise concerns about safety and establishing additional obligations on landlords to find alternative financing for remediation works in order to lower the costs passed to leaseholders.

The act also provides for a levy on the development of all residential buildings in England, unless exempted, to ensure the industry makes a contribution to fixing historical building safety defects. Discussion on the new levy was discussed, explaining originally that the Scottish and Welsh governments had sought a four nations approach before this was put in place and as a result their concerns regarding this have been raised to the UK Government. A Scottish alternative is now being explored as a matter of urgency and that all Ministers will be included in communications on the matter (see item 2 above).

It was noted that changes to the architects act are UK wide as is the New Homes Ombudsman being established that will provide greater protection to new home owners for developers to redress any issues.

The act also introduces new powers allowing for the enhanced and strengthened regulation of construction products and paves the way for a new national construction products regulator. Officials are looking at the range of powers this new regulator will have.

High rise building inventory

Officials presented a paper on the current status of the High Rise Building Inventory (HRI) and seeking the views of ministers in regards to future iterations of the data. The HRI was introduced following the events of the Grenfell Tower tragedy with the second iteration published on the 8 November 2021.

Officials were seeking the views of Ministers to pause the next iteration due to the low number of changes (single numbers). The importance and resource already put into the HRI was acknowledged along with the importance and linkages of the HRI to the Safe Buildings Register. Ministers requested that officials liaise and discuss the best way forward for the HRI and develop communications on the reasoning for the pause for the next iteration of the data set. 

  • action point 3 – officials to meet and discuss the best way forward for HRI and develop communications for the pause to the third iteration of the data set and provide further advice to Ministers

Building standards futures board

SG officials provided an update on the Buildings Standards Future Board. A paper had been circulated ahead of the meeting providing an overview of each of the seven workstreams with further detail being provided in regards to the Verification Delivery Model (hub); Compliance Plan; Workforce Strategy; and the Digital Transformation programme.

Officials advised that the Verification Delivery Model Working Group recommended that the model of a central hub with regional strengthening should be trialled to support the current model. In partnership with LABSS, work has been undertaken to set up the building standards Hub Pilot. The Futures Board has provided funding for the Pilot for a period of up to 18 months. This will enable work to begin on evidencing what improvements to the delivery model can be achieved by the introduction of a centralised hub and the strengthening of local authority verifier regional partnerships whilst also scoping the delivery of a permanent Hub. The pilot hub went live at the end May 2022.

SG officials also advised that the proposed compliance plan process is being trialled on a live project in partnership with Fife Council and supported by the Scottish Futures Trust. The trial focuses on the Compliance Plan Manager (CPM) role, the compliance plan process and the creation and storage and sharing of compliance evidence. Working with the Cladding Remediation team the potential for the CPM role to be incorporated in the forthcoming remediation programme is also being scoped.

It was acknowledged that there is a meeting of the Building Standards Futures Board the following week (15 June 2022) and that the Minister for Net Zero Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights will be attending as Minister with portfolio responsibility.

Progress updates

SG officials provided oral updates to ministers. Firstly an update on fire and carbon monoxide detectors was provided. Legislation came into force on the 1 February 2022 and associated media enquiries and correspondence have quietened down. Industry has also advised that there is now only a slight delay of two weeks (maximum) to access alarms but they are available. 

An update on the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 was provided, noting that the UK Government has now implemented changes along with publishing a white paper in relation to Fire reform in England on 18 May 2022. The SG published a response to phase 1 in October 2020, and in March 2021 updated fire safety guidance was published. The suite of SG fire safety guidance documents was also updated and published in February this year. The outcome of the Home Office led the research concerning ‘stay put’ is still awaited. SFRS have made a number of changes to fire fighting in Scotland since the Grenfell Tower fire.

It was noted that phase 2 of Grenfell Inquiry has been ongoing since 2019 looking at a range of areas, including primary refurbishments, roles and responsibilities, building control, fire risk assessments, housing issues, local authority issues and the aftermath of the fire. Evidence is expected to conclude in the summer 2022 with recommendations expected in Spring 2023. There is a SG phase 2 Grenfell Inquiry working group which produces weekly summaries and module summaries. The group meet regularly to take a forward look at what recommendations may come out from the phase 2 evidence sessions, identifying if any action is required now by the SG Ministers confirmed that they are content for the phase 2 working group to continue to meet. 

It was highlighted that the following week would mark the five years since the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire on the evening of the 14 June 2017. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government asked that SG officials take stock of what actions have been taken and what future steps the SG expects to take going forward.

An update on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was provided, noting that work had commenced on the internal atrium at the end of May 2022. This is investigatory work, with full remediation work to start at the beginning of July 2022. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are working alongside Scottish Government Building Standards and Scottish Fire Rescue Service (SFRS). 

AOB

Officials advised ministers that the SG’s Building Standards Division had received from the procurator fiscal office, a report on the Cameron House fire. Officials will review the report in detail along with any recommendations. 

It was noted that Wednesday 21 December 2022 09:30 to 11:00 is the date of the next meeting.

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