Need to know

Since Dame Judith Hackitt first called for higher-risk buildings to have a ‘golden thread’ of information, industry has wanted to know what this will need to include. New regulations tell us more, says Hywel Davies

On 24 January, government laid the Higher-risk Buildings (Key Building Information etc.) Regulations 2023 in parliament. Although they must be debated and approved by both houses of parliament before becoming law, they give us a clear idea of what is to be required. 

The regulations set out the high-level key building information that the principal accountable person (PAP) – responsible for the repair of the structure and exterior of a building – will have to give the Building Safety Regulator (BSR). They also clarify the individual responsibilities of multiple accountable persons for the different parts of a higher-risk building (HRB).

The key building information required includes the high-level information needed by the BSR to enable them to fulfil several roles set out in the Building Safety Act. It will allow analysis of trends and risks in high-rise residential buildings, and prioritisation of assessment of the fire and structural safety in existing high-rise residential buildings. This will assist the regulator in deciding when to call in and assess the safety-case report for that building.  

The regulations describe the key building information as being: information about the principal use of the building and any subsidiary uses (which will identify mixed-use buildings); details of any ancillary building that is attached to the HRB, but not a part of it; and details of outbuildings and basements. 

It also includes the number of staircases and storeys in the building, materials used in the external walls and roof, and any fixtures attached to the walls. In addition, it will require details of the structure, energy supplied to the building, and any energy-storage system. Finally, details of the evacuation strategy and fire and smoke control equipment will be needed. 

‘Information will have to be submitted digitally, in a format or by a specific mechanism to be set out by the regulator

The key building information will have to be supplied to the regulator as part of the PAP’s application for registration of their HRB, although they will have 28 days from submitting the application to supply the key information. The PAP has a statutory duty to provide this information. It is worth noting that registration is due to open in April, with a six-month window for existing HRBs to apply for registration. So, all existing HRBs will need to have this information before October this year.

Information will have to be submitted digitally, in a format or by a specific mechanism to be set out by the regulator. The regulations expressly enable the regulator to specify a website address.

These regulations do not fully describe everything that will be required in the golden thread, but are a start and give a clear steer to PAPs about what they will have to register in buildings as accountable persons.

Where more than one accountable person is involved in ownership or operation of a higher-risk building, it is vital to clarify which accountable person is responsible for each part of the building. Ownership of residential buildings is not always simple and clear, leading to multiple accountable persons, with complex lease arrangements dictating complicated repairing responsibilities for different parts of the building. 

The regulations will enable all of those involved in managing building safety in a higher-risk building to identify which accountable person is responsible for a particular part of a building in relation to their responsibilities under the Building Safety Act. They also allow the new Building Safety Regulator to identify who is responsible for the different parts of a building.

These are the second set of regulations – after those that set the scope of ‘higher risk buildings’ in December – that relate to the new regime for building safety, with further regulations to follow. We can now clearly see the details coming into place to implement the biggest changes to regulation of residential buildings since World War II. Anyone responsible for a higher-risk building has eight months to collate and submit this information. It is now time to act on building safety.

Further reading:

  1. High-Risk Buildings, (Key Building Information etc.) (England), Regulations 2023,
  2. Explanatory Memorandum to the Higher-Risk Buildings,(Key Building Information etc.) (England), Regulations 2023,
  3. Consultation on the new safety regime for occupied higher-risk buildings, DLUHC,