Part 4 - areas for further consideration
In addition to the proposals set out in Part 1, the Review Panel on Compliance and Enforcement also identified areas of the building standards system that require further thought which could require changes to primary legislation. Your view on these proposals would be welcome.
Re-shaping the building standards system
The panel recognised that approximately 80% of all building warrant applications are for low value work (£50,000 or less) for which the current building standards system is generally fit for purpose. Therefore the proposals in Part 2 for Compliance and Enforcement focus on the 20% higher value work, applying a proportionate approach.
The move away from a one size fits all system should be further considered in how it works for the higher risk buildings across the whole system. The differences in approach should be clearly defined. One aspect might be the structure and layout of the Technical Handbooks.
The building warrant fees system is designed to reflect, as best it can, the costs of providing verification services. The level of fees was reviewed in 2017 in the knowledge that further work would be necessary on the level of verification activity through the construction phase.
The panel considered that future fees should be reviewed to cover any new verification activities, in particular a higher level of inspection activity during construction, resulting from the proposals in Parts 2 and 3.
The panel considered merit in looking at phasing payment of the fee between the building warrant (design) phase and the completion certificate(construction) phase. This would stagger the fee payment to align with the two distinct building standards procedures and importantly it avoids all the fees having to be paid at application stage.
The panel considered that staged warrant fees should be reviewed to reflect the additional work for verifiers. Also that when the verifier has to undertake further verification activity after non-compliances are identified, additional fees should be considered
The consultation proposals include differentiating the amendment to warrant form to separate design changes from staged warrants, which currently use the same form. The panel considered that further work is required on amendments to warrant to take account of their significance and timing. Also to place more responsibility on building owners and developers to manage their changes and allow them to self-certify them, to allow work to progress without unnecessary delays. This could be by introducing a certification of amendment scheme.
The panel recognised the importance of the completion certificate and the consultation proposals strengthen procedures for them. The panel also considered the introduction of a certification of compliance at completion scheme to provide assurance for the building owner or developer before they submit their completion certificate confirming compliance.
The building standards system includes legislative backstop processing deadlines to prevent building warrant applications stalling i.e. not being checked by the verifier or responded to by the applicant. Examples being the deemed refusals where an application first report is not issued within three months or the warrant is not decided within nine months (or agreed longer period) of the first report. Although the performance framework for verifiers includes performance targets for first reports and granting a building warrant, there might be merit in introducing processing timescales into legislation, particularly for low value work (for example deemed granting if not met).
The building standards system recognises exempt types of buildings and work. Also types that do not require a building warrant but must still meet building regulations. The panel considered that there may be areas for expansion of these and the introduction of a notification system of such work, allowing scrutiny by local authorities for enforcement purposes.
The consultation recognises that local authorities should be pro-active in enforcing building standards procedures and technical standards and that they have enforcement policies in place based on national guidance. Whilst this should generate more enforcement activity, the panel also considered that the level of penalties for non-compliance should be reviewed to provide a stronger disincentive for building owners or developers who fail to comply with building regulations.
Resourcing and skills
The consultation proposals recognise the need for the building owner or developer and the local authority in their verifier and enforcement roles, to have the appropriate levels of resources and skills.
The construction industry has been experiencing skills shortages and the panel considered ways to encourage and promote building standards training and opportunities, to address skills shortages and improvements in compliance.
The panel considered that certification of design and construction should be further developed where possible, particularly for safety critical elements, for example fire safety engineering, fire-stopping and structure.
The panel also considered how contractors can take more responsibility for their work and provide reassurance to owners and developers. For example through licensed contractors schemes.
Question 4.1: Do you agree with the areas identified for further consideration?
Question 4.2: Do you consider there are other areas of the building standards system that require further consideration?
Question 4.3: If Yes above please tell us what they are in the box below.