New laws will boost confidence in high-rises, says survey

Annual study of tall towers records ‘initial uncertainty’ around safety demands

New safety legislation should boost public confidence in high-rise building, but it has created ‘initial uncertainty’, according to this year’s annual survey of London’s tall towers. 

The Sustainable Skylines 2023 survey, published on 13 May, says that new building safety legislation, introduced following the Grenfell tragedy, is ‘necessary and welcomed’. However, ‘more stringent’ environmental and building safety demands, together with the subdued residential market and evolving legislation, are posing challenges for the financial viability of towers and how they are designed. 

It points to industry concerns about two new ‘gateways’ – to sign off fire safety design before construction starts and then to confirm that the building has been constructed as designed before occupation – neither of which is expected to come into force until October this year. There is concern that a lack of resources within the new Building Safety Regulator, which will police the gateways, will lead to delays in this process. 

The report also raises concerns about a new rule stipulating that residential buildings more than 30m or 10 storeys high must include a second staircase, which has been mandated since February by the London Mayor. 

Coupled with other requirements in the London Design Guide, such as for flats to be dual-aspect, the two-staircase rule could make tall buildings unviable, the survey warns.