Getting a head start is key to the Building Safety Act, says Chris Chennell

Homes are often perceived to be one’s safe haven – so it’s only right that legislation is put in place to make sure they are truly safe for the people living in them.

The introduction of new legislation to improve building safety should be welcomed by all of us working in the sector. As the people responsible for creating the spaces where people spend a large portion of their time, places where people want to relax, switch off and enjoy themselves with friends and family, we have a duty to ensure these are designed to the highest quality and standards. This new legislation will help us achieve just that.


The Building Safety Bill, which received royal assent last month, promises to “create lasting generational change” to the ways high rise residential buildings are designed, constructed, and operated. To do so, it will introduce three separate gateway points developed to ensure building safety regulatory requirements are met at each stage of a building’s lifecycle.

The first gateway – which came into effect on 1 August 2021 – mandates that before planning permission is granted, an accountable person must be identified who will be responsible for fire and structural safety.

Gateway two – although not expected to come into effect until next year – require that an application is submitted to the Building Safety Regulator prior to construction starting, outlining the full design intention, and asserting the competency of the principal designer and principal contractor. Gateway three, at completion of building, a golden thread of data must be transferred to the accountable person for use throughout the life of the building to operate a safety case.

But what impact does the act and its regulatory requirements have on us as construction organisations and what should we be considering now ahead of gateways 2 and 3 being introduced?

We’re all well-aware of the urgent need for thousands of residential buildings to undergo remediation works. A pilot study from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has found that between 6,220 and 8,890 mid-rise residential buildings in England require work to fix “life-threatening fire risks”. The estimated costs to alleviate fire risks for affected properties is between £3.1bn and £5.3bn.

It’s time to understand how we can deliver the golden thread to prevent this happening in the future.

Finding the right people for the job

We need to identify the skill gaps within our own workforce to ensure that project teams are best equipped to fulfil their roles and new responsibilities. With planning applications now required to name an accountable person at the beginning of the project, the cultural change demanded by Dame Judith Hackitt, the lead on the government’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety, is truly coming into fruition. The end user (accountable person) will need to lead on how they will operate and maintain a safe building at the very commencement of a design.

As competency will now be a key measure – for both duty holder (the client and accountable person) and for the Health and Safety Executive – during the delivery of projects it is vital that the best people are identified and trained with the right technical knowledge. The new obligations put in place by this legislation will hold individuals criminally liable: these nominated individuals will want to ensure the very best people can be assessed for their skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours.

Conversations with fire safety, structural safety, building modelling, and safety case experts can help identify vital skills gaps in your team. Making sure you have the right people to collect up-to-date information on your building and provide expert analysis to show how safe a building is will be vital in providing the right technical advice to meet these new legislated obligations.

Using technology to maintain the golden thread

You can have the best people but you also need to give them the right tools for them to do the best job. It is important you invest in the right information management technologies so that data is easily accessible. Dame Judith Hackitt has emphasised the need for a digital data capture so that organisations have a digital representation of the building to enable more accurate modelling. This requirement will be mandated within the new legislation.

While capturing building data is not a new phenomenon, with proptech constantly advancing, there’s an opportunity to rethink how we use building data and innovation to ensure best practice is constantly being met to make buildings as safe as they can be.

With the act introducing several more layers of responsibility to different duty holders during the design, construction and operation phases, it is important that data collected for the building is stored and presented in a format aligned with the accountable person Asset Information Model. Accurate modelling at each gateway phase is vital – it will help each duty holder to understand why certain design elements were included, and to enable these to form part of an effective safety case for the life of the building.

At Hydrock, we’re developing a golden thread service offering that will provide our clients end-to-end consultancy in response to these forthcoming legislation changes.

We will be able to help determine what information needs to be captured by the platform, record the decision process around protection measures, offer auditing strategies for design-side and client-side quality assurance, deliver bespoke digital data capture with our platform, and provide on-site clerk of works to record construction decisions. The intention will be to enable a faultless transfer of information that will make the safety of the building easier to police by making the hand over between duty holders as seamless as possible.

What to do in the next 18 months

The act is now enshrined in law and we have time to prepare for the introduction of gateways 2 and 3. All high rise residential projects will need to start adding these changes into their plans now. Getting a head start and making sure you have the right people and technology in place to meet the new regulations and deliver the golden thread is absolutely vital to project and commercial success.

Chris Chennell is director of fire safety at Hydrock