Multiple regulators, overlapping rules, competence requirements, gateways, information sharing and holistic approaches. Here’s what the Building the Future Commission’s building safety stream has been looking at

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As part of Building Magazine’s ambitious year-long Building the Future Commission  to improve the built environment I’ve been busy over the past few weeks talking to various experts about the myriad legislative requirements of the Building Safety Act.

I’ve been seeking to understand how the construction industry can ensure compliance and safety of buildings in the long term while also keep much-needed housing delivery going.

I’ve already written about the issue of second staircases  and how the government’s proposals for mandatory second stair cores in blocks over 30m in height is leading to uncertainty, given fire chiefs have been calling for 18m.

Schemes are being put on hold amid confusion over whether staircases and extra lifts are needed in blocks over 18m and 30m high.

But what I’m finding during these early stages of the commission is that confusion over different and contrasting rules or guidance is a bit of a theme across many areas of building safety currently.

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Carl Brown, head of content, Building

For instance, there are the Building Safety Act requirements, which will be regulated by the new Building Safety Regulator, but there are also fire safety regulations,  compliance with which is inspected by the fire service, and then there are environmental health issues regulated by local authorities. And then on top of this, a beefed-up Regulator of Social Housing will be getting powers to carry out inspections of existing blocks as part of a new proactive regulatory regime to drive up standards in homes.

These multiple regulatory regimes can sometimes overlap with one another and cause confusion.

Interestingly, two of our commissioners Rebecca Rees, partner at Trowers & Hamlins  and Andrew Mellor, partner at PRP, both believe some kind of central regulatory body or joint advice service would help reduce some of this confusion and help the industry get on and create desirable buildings without hesitation or delay. The Building the Future Commission will examine these ideas in the coming months.

In the next few weeks of course the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will officially come into force as part of the Health and Safety Executive.

Will the BSR be the kind of robust, proactive regulator envisaged by Dame Judith Hackitt or will it be more reactive like the HSE? Will it be up to the task? I’m hopeful of speaking to senior figures at the BSR in the next few weeks to learn more about their approach.

I’ve also in the past few days had an interesting conversation with the Passive Fire Knowledge Group (PFKG), an informal grouping of several tier one contractors and trade associations Association for Specialist Fire Protection, Building & Engineering Services Association and the Finishes and Interiors Sector.

>>See also: Building the Future Commission

>>See also:  What the second staircase rule would mean for high-rise blocks

The non-profit forum is concerned that tier one contractors may struggle to be able to provide assurance that the buildings they have inherited comply with regulations. This is because they may have inherited issues from the design stage that may prevent them providing the assurance they need to at gateway two under the act.

It’s a complicated area but the PFKG in a nutshell wants the building regulation to be considered holistically by designers and engineers at a much earlier in the process during the design stage. The commission will be looking at this also.

Finally, I’ve been speaking to Hanna Clarke of the CPA about competence requirements and the need for a construction product competency standard. The commission will look closely at the work of the Competence Steering Group, to see whether new approaches there could inform the commission’s report.

* If you want to get in touch about our work through the Building the Future Commission, whether on building safety or our other seven streams, please do so. You can email me on building safety issues at

If you want to tell us about your idea to improve the built environment you can use our form here.  Your idea will potentially be featured in a new Building the Future Commission Ideas Hub page launching in the next few weeks.

Carl Brown, head of content, Building 

Building the Future Commission 


Coming up on the Building the Future commission:

In the coming weeks we will:

  • Host our first regional roundtable with our partner Constructing Excellence in the East of England region in mid-March
  • Convene our first commissioner panel meeting in April
  • Interview two big hitters in the world of infrastructure for the infrastructure stream
  • Examine whether the qualifications landscape needs to change and assess whether more flexibility is needed for our education and skills stream
  • Investigate how for-profit affordable housing can deliver the homes we need for the housing and planning stream
  • Assess a new model of procurement used by the Ministry of Defence for the project delivery and digital stream
  • Look at models of flexible working in the industry for the workplace, culture and leadership stream

About the commission

The Building the Future Commission is a year-long project, launched to mark Building’s 180th  anniversary, to assess potential solutions and radical new ways of thinking to improve the built environment.

The major project’s work will be guided by a panel of 19 major figures who have signed up to help guide the commission’s work culminatuing  culminate in a report published at the end of the year.

The commissioner include figures from the world of contracting, housing development, architecture, policy-making, skills, design, place-making, infrastructure, consultancy and legal.

The commissioners include Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, Katy Dowding, executive vice president at Skanska, Richard Steer, chair of Gleeds, Lara Oyedele, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Mark Wild, former boss of Crossrail and chief executive of SGN and Simon Tolson, senior partner at Fenwick Elliott. See the full list here.

The project is looking at proposals for change in eight areas:

>> Editor’s view: And now for something completely positive - our Building the Future Commission

>> Click here for more about the project and the commissioners

Building the Future will also undertake a countrywide tour of roundtable discussions with experts around the regions as part of a consultation programme in partnership with the regional arms of industry body Constructing Excellence. It will also set up a young person’s advisory panel.

We will also be setting up an ideas hub and we want to hear your views.