Social Housing Speed Read: The DCLG Building Safety Programme
31st July, 2017
In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has established a webpage where individuals can access news, advice and guidance on its Building Safety Programme aimed at supporting owners and residents of high rise buildings.
The programme introduces a checking and testing process to identity buildings which are of concern and aims to develop advice and provide solutions. With assistance from the fire and rescue services, the DCLG will support Landlords in ensuring the safety of their residents and taking immediate steps to start any remedial work needed.
The Building Safety Programme
The Building Safety Programme is advised by an independent expert advisory panel. This panel has been established to recommend any action it thinks the Government should take immediately that will assist in identifying buildings that are of concern and that may aid in improving public safety.
The DCLG has recently issued the following three advice notes which are available on the Building Safety Programme webpage:
- explanatory note on safety checks and testing;
- advice on recladding; and
- explanatory note on large scale testing.
The advice notes draw on the advice issued so far to private and public sector landlords and building owners on the process to arrange fire safety tests on cladding on high rise buildings, including social housing blocks.
Checking and testing
The launch of the DCLG Building Safety Programme webpage followed an announcement by the Government of a newly developed screening test by The Building Research Establishment (BRE) aimed at assessing which type of core material is present in the cladding of high rise buildings. The BRE have undertaken initial screening tests to identify which blocks have cladding which does not meet the requirements for limited combustibility within the current Building Regulations guidance.
All of the results are expected by 14 August. The DCLG are first sharing the results with local authorities and housing associations who have confirmed that their buildings are clad in the material types tested, following which the results will be made publicly available via the DCLG’s website.
The DCLG has also written to all building control bodies in England to stress the key Building Regulations requirements when cladding work on high rise buildings over 18 meters tall is carried out.
Immediate steps for landlords
Building owners are firstly advised to identify the cladding and insulation materials used on their buildings if they have not done so already.
If a building has been identified as one being a cause for concern, the DCLG have also provided immediate interim measures to be taken in order to manage fire safety. Landlords and / or building owners are advised to:
- notify the fire and rescue services
- check that a fire risk assessment has been carried out in the last 12 months
- engage with residents to ensure they fully understand the fire safety procedure
- check that there is no combustible material in the vicinity of the cladding
- check that smoke detection equipment is working correctly
Building owners are also advised to take their own professional advice on what steps to take; this will be dependent on what materials are on the building. The DCLG states that professional advice may be obtained from:
- a qualified engineer with relevant experience in fire safety, including fire testing of building products and systems, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institution of Fire Engineers; or
- from an assessor employed by a test laboratory accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to carry out BS8414 and classify results to BR135 (this being the required standard in current Building Regulations guidance).
With the introduction of the Building Safety Programme, we are finally seeing fire safety in high rise buildings being addressed. Building owners should utilise the DCLG’s advice and support to either gain reassurance that their buildings are safe or assist in making decisions about what steps they can take to ensure the safety of residents.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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