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Newsletter 60 - October 2020

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Report Overview

The origins of the recent draft Building Safety Bill lie in the Building Safety Programme, details of which were published in July 2017 following the Grenfell fire, to make sure that residents of high-rise buildings are safe – and feel safe – now, and in the future. This was followed by Dame Judith Hackitt’s report Building a Safer Future in 2018. Her report proposed a fundamental shift in the approach to regulation, from prescription to one of the professions looking at buildings as a whole and demonstrating that they are safe. Although there had been much public focus on Grenfell and the role of cladding in that incident, the Hackitt review took a much broader view to tackle the basic challenge of making Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) safe overall. The next step was Government consultation in 2019 on proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system which was followed by the publication of the draft Bill. It will be 2021 before this passes through Parliament and perhaps 2022 before the secondary legislation flowing from it is implemented. One of the principal features is the creation of a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) as an addition to the existing roles for HSE. Their many duties will include taking over the building control regime for all buildings, although with an initial emphasis on HRRBs, and focusing on structural safety and fire safety, which means that engineers will be heavily involved throughout the process. For some this will be business as usual, whilst for others it will mean learning additional skills and becoming conversant with new management and technical processes. Very importantly, the Bill makes provision for regulations for competence and this is not limited to work on higher risk buildings. The requirements relevant to structural engineers are being addressed at the highest level within IStructE so that members can be aware of any new requirements well in advance. Included in the Bill there is a requirement for the Building Safety Regulator to establish and operate a system for the voluntary reporting of information about building safety. The proposal is for this function to be fulfilled through the expansion of CROSS, which will be extended to include fire safety. Work on this has been underway since the start of the year with MHCLG and a greatly expanded and enhanced CROSS will be launched in early 2021. All the reports in this Newsletter are relevant to the requirements in the Bill with a common, and disturbing thread, that persons who are not competent are making unsafe decisions.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

979 Outdoor video screens

This report is to raise concerns about certain video screen systems being used out of doors for public displays with large numbers of people in close proximity.

845 Weld de-specification

A reporter's firm was engaged as sub-contract fabricators for a main contractor and was asked to de-specify full and partial penetration butt welds and replace with fillet welds.

940 Fire in multi-storey car parks

Following the fire at the car park in Liverpool, a reporter is concerned by the reluctance of the industry to voluntarily take on board and proactively react to the lessons learnt.

946 Swimming pool ceiling collapses

A reporter writes about the collapses of two swimming pool ceilings due to failure of the fixings.

950 Inadequate punching shear reinforcement

Remedial works were required in a number of residential buildings after inadequate punching shear reinforcement was identified.

968 Execution not matching design assumptions

Eccentric loading from a column caused the pair of beams supporting the column to rotate.

971 Workmanship in domestic buildings

A steel beam had the web cut away at the support to avoid having to divert some services.

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