Annex A: Improving Building Standards
Building Standards system - Background
A building warrant is required for most new buildings and building work, as well as for particular changes of use or occupation (conversions), extensions or alterations. The role of the verifier is to provide independent checking of the design (leading to granting of building warrant) and construction (leading to acceptance of the completion certificate). Verifiers are appointed by Scottish Ministers for set periods of time. All 32 Scottish Local Authorities are currently appointed as verifiers for their own geographic area.
New building work must meet the building regulations and mandatory standards and the Scottish Government publishes Technical Handbooks which provide supporting guidance on meeting the building standards. Alterations and refurbishments to existing buildings may attract the full current standards relevant to the alteration work. In addition, the whole building must not, as a result of the alteration, fail to comply with building regulations if it complied originally, or fail to a greater degree if it failed to comply originally. However, the procedures for obtaining a warrant and submitting a completion certificate do not apply to certain defined types of work listed in Schedule 3 of the building regulations, including the provision of services, fittings and equipment. Schedule 3 is split into 3 categories and application of the standards varies depending on the nature of the work undertaken.
In 2013 local authority building standards services introduced a risk assessed approach to site inspections that targeted building elements that were at greatest risk of non-compliance. This approach should decrease the likelihood of the defects identified in the Cole report and achieve improved levels of compliance with building regulations.
The applicant is responsible for demonstrating compliance on their building warrant application. The relevant person (the owner or developer) is responsible for compliance during construction and when the building is complete, they must submit a completion certificate in which they certify that the work, or conversion, meets the building warrant and building regulations. Building owners are ultimately responsible for the on-going safety of their own buildings.
Local Authorities must undertake ‘reasonable inquiry’ checking before they accept a completion certificate. In 2012, the performance framework was introduced and under KPO2 Increased quality of compliance during the construction, the “Construction, Compliance and Notification Plan” ( CCNP) was developed in conjunction with Local Authorities. The CCNP sets out the LA’s “risk-based” inspection regime and is issued with the building warrant. Scottish Government commissioned research in 2015 to ‘Investigate the impact of the introduction of CCNPs on building standards compliance levels’.
The owner or developer must submit a completion certificate when work is complete, and is often reliant on other professionals (design/construction) to provide them with the reassurance that their work is compliant. It is important note the following:
- It is imperative that completion certificates are not accepted by a verifier unless the appropriate checks have been done.
- Also that buildings are not occupied or used without a completion certificate having been accepted by a verifier.
Local authorities also have a range of enforcement powers to deal with work done without a building warrant (when one was needed) or not in accordance with a building warrant. They can also deal with buildings they consider to be defective or dangerous and can serve notice and carry out work if the notice is not met. They have powers to undertake emergency action on dangerous buildings, and can recover their reasonable costs from the building owner.
Certification of design and construction is an optional process for determination of certain aspects of the design and construction of buildings under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. Scottish Ministers have approved three Building Standards Certification of Design Schemes (Building Structure, Energy (Domestic) and Energy (Non domestic)) and two Building Standards Certification of Construction Schemes (Electrical and Heating and Plumbing and Drainage). Certificates of design and construction indicate compliance with building regulations.
Third party certification by suitably qualified persons can also provide evidence of compliance with regulations. There are schemes already in existence in the UK for the installation and certification of construction products. Since the performance of a system, product, component or structure is dependent upon satisfactory site installation, testing and maintenance, independent schemes of certification and accreditation of installers and maintenance firms of such will provide confidence in the appropriate standard of workmanship being provided. It is the responsibility of the verifier to satisfy themselves that such schemes allow evidence for compliance with regulations.
The building standards system is pre-emptive, a building warrant is required before work starts and a completion certificate must be accepted before a new building can be occupied or used. The procedure regulations set out the processes from application through to completion and places responsibilities on applicants. This includes application details and information, notifications of start of work, drainage and completion. These regulatory requirements imply a responsibility for verifiers to check they are being met.
Local Authority Verifier Performance
Verifier appointments included the condition that local authorities must meet the terms of the Performance Framework 2017, updated for the new appointment term, and the newly introduced Operating Framework 2017. The Operating Framework 2017 sets out the key functions of the verifier and requires that ‘Verifiers must adhere to legislative procedures and deadlines, appeals processes and complaints processes.’