Building Safety Regulator clarifies design requirements for building control approval

The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) has confirmed that completed designs for high-rise residential buildings will not always be required for building control approval.

BSR has acknowledged that there are some circumstances in which a full set of building designs will not be needed to satisfy gateway two of the application process (which sets out building control approval for higher-risk buildings). The clarification was made during a recent webinar hosted by the BSR covering its design and construction requirements for new high-rise buildings to ensure building safety.

There will legitimately be parts of the design where it is not reasonable to expect the full detail of the outset,” stated Neil Hope-Collins, the operational policy lead for higher-risk building control authority at the BSR, during a live session on 10 January 2024.

There are bits that you legitimately can’t have the detail for yet because that’s six years down the line.

The standards, the contractors, may change. Technology may move on. You don’t know how that bit of the hole is going to be filled,” he continued.

In literature from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explaining the three gateways for building safety, it is made clear that “Gateway Two provides a ‘hold point’ where construction cannot begin until BSR is satisfied that the design meets the functional requirements of the building regulations.

This means that plans need to outline exactly how compliance with the functional requirements of the building regulations is going to be met – and that they do not rely on unrealistic management expectations.

However, as Neil reiterates: “The functional outcome we want from that building control approval application is that there is enough information in there for you, as the applicant, and us, as the regulator, to be confident that if built, the building will satisfy those functional requirements.”

As Building Magazine reports, this clarification has come as a surprise to some in the building and construction sector. Adam Hopkins, the senior technical manager at Peabody Housing Association, stated that the stance “appears to contrast with the messaging to date and the notion that the design must be ‘all but complete’ at gateway two”.

Over the past months and years, I’ve participated in and observed conversations between professionals where the debate is about how all this work will get completed before gateway two.

If the messaging hasn’t changed, then how has the industry managed to so radically misinterpret the expectations of the regulator?” Adam added.

The BSR believes it has been consistent with its messaging regarding the new regime requirements, with a spokesperson for the regulator explaining: “The consistent message from BSR has been that there should be sufficient detail for the regulator to be assured that if built the design will satisfy all applicable requirements of building regulations.

This recognises that there could be details and areas of design that it was not reasonable for a client to provide at the initial point of application.”

In the wake of the BSR’s new regime for higher-risk residential buildings, the regulator has been hosting a series of webinars to support building owners and developers in understanding the requirements of the Build Control Approval process. Previous sessions, available to watch on demand, have included an overview of Building Assessment Certification, Planning Gateway One, and regulation of the building control profession moving forward.

The BSR has also held Q&A sessions with building designers and developers. For the December 2023/January 2024 issue of the Fire & Risk Management journal, Andrew Saunders, the operational policy advisor at the BSR, answered questions on recent updates impacting the regulatory regime. You can access the issue in the Members’ Area here.