Time to comply: building safety regulations overview

The Building Safety Act paved the way for new regulations affecting buildings and those who create them. Hywel Davies summarises the changes coming into force

On 17 August, the government made new regulations for Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs), along with major changes to the Building Regulations. These create new dutyholder roles and duties, and require certain competences and appropriate behaviours.

The government also laid new procedures for the Building Safety Regulator to control work on HRBs, and set out a new regime for the management of all occupied HRBs. For those who have followed the development of building safety law since 2018, there are few surprises.

Before anyone raises their hand and says these regulations are far too complicated to implement in such a short time, they are hardly a surprise. They were first called for by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review more than five years ago, then confirmed when government accepted all her recommendations at the end of 2018. Further indications were contained in the consultation on implementing the report in 2019, before the passage of the Building Safety Act introduced the enabling powers for these procedures in 2022.

The government has held its nerve and delivered the regulations as it has said it would. Anyone who bet on a U-turn may find it was a costly wager

The finer points of the dutyholder and competence regime that Dame Judith called for were first set out in November 2021, when draft regulations for competence and dutyholders were issued to give industry early sight. They were discussed in some detail in the consultations on implementing Parts 3 and 4 of the Building Safety Act last summer. All that is happening now is that they are being implemented, as long foretold.

In practice, those who are confident that they are already competent and comply with Building Regulations should not have a major problem complying with these regulations and adapting to the changes. They will be most challenging for those who have been operating at the margins of compliance and who will have to change the way they work.

The government has held its nerve and delivered the regulations as it said it would. Anyone who bet on a U-turn may find it was a costly wager. The regulations are here and come into force on 1 October, and they will fundamentally reform the way that design and construction appointments are made.

They will rebalance responsibilities for building work and are likely to be accompanied by much more robust enforcement, especially where problems emerge on a site. Building Control can be expected to work back from problems to identify how they arose. That, in turn, is likely to call into question the competence of all concerned and compliance with the new duties and competence requirements set out in the new regulations.

Not knowing what the new dutyholder roles, duties and competency requirements are will almost, by definition, demonstrate inadequate knowledge of the regulations and be evidence of inappropriate behaviours, and so a failure to be competent or compliant.

CIBSE training: Introduction to the Building Safety Act

The Building Safety Act is the most significant and far reaching reform of the construction sector since WWII. Affecting all buildings of any type and the whole supply chain, from manufacturers to those who operate buildings. It will affect us all. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the Act and the changes it is bringing to our working practices. The one day course can be either remote or face-to-face and is worth 6 CPD hours.
Visit www.cibse.org/buildingsafety23 for more details.

The Building etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 introduce the new dutyholder and competence requirements for practitioners and clients. Part 2A introduces a whole series of new regulations – 17 in total – covering the duties, competence and behaviour of clients, designers and contractors.

Part 2A also creates the new roles and duties of the principal designer and contractor for every project. That is correct – they are for every project, because these requirements apply to all buildings. 

Anyone familiar with Dame Judith Hackitt’s 2018 report into Building Regulations and Fire Safety will know that she recommended creating specific roles and responsibilities for clients, designers and contractors doing building work. It should surprise nobody that the first major change to the Building Regulations is the introduction of the new Part on dutyholders and competence.

The regulations revise the rules for deposit of plans and further embed energy-related procedures into UK law. They also strengthen Regulation 38 on the provision of fire safety information, which applies to all building work. If you deal with Building Control in any form, you need to know what these regulations require, starting this October.

If you are responsible for managing an occupied HRB, or for managing building work in, or to create, a new HRB, there are two new sets of regulations. The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 set out the new Building Control system for HRBs in detail, implementing Part 3 of the Building Safety Act.

These regulations will come into force in October, with a transitional period of six months for work already under way. These are explained in more detail in a series of articles on the Journal website. It will explain the major changes to Part 3 of the Building Regulations as they apply to all building work, and summarise new procedures for control of works to HRBs.

The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023 apply to all HRBs in occupation. They implement many of the provisions enabled by Part 4 of the Building Safety Act 2022, covering the operational management of HRBs.

They introduce requirements on Accountable Persons to hold accurate, up-to-date information about their building(s) in electronic form, to keep it up to date and use that information to make a safety assessment about the building and then demonstrate the control measures/management systems they have in place to proactively manage the risks.

The regulations also have a firm focus on resident engagement, making sure that those responsible for resident safety are actively talking and listening to residents, and that they have a complaints procedure should issues arise. Again, there is nothing here that has not been well signalled over a period of years.

It is becoming a cliché, but this really is the biggest change in Building Regulations since World War II. These reforms will change the way the industry is regulated. The onus will fall on everyone to demonstrate compliance and maintain the evidence, not on a Building Control officer to find non-compliance.

While there are new and more rigorous rules for HRBs, the Building Regulations are for all building work, without exception. The industry now has a huge opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to embrace these reforms and rebuild public trust in what we do. It will not be easy or quick, but it needs to be done.

Bodies such as CIBSE will be working with the Construction Leadership Council and its constituent bodies to provide further guidance on these regulations, and on how clients, principal designers, contractors and Accountable Persons can meet the new obligations in a safe, reasonable and proportionate manner.

It is another step on the road to rebuilding trust in the construction and operation of our high-rise building stock, and another step on the road to building a safer future.


Dr Hywel Davies is a former chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee who has worked in the field of regulations and standards for over 35 years. He is chief technical officer of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and an Honorary Fellow of CIBSE.

Other articles by Hywel Davies on the Building Safety Act

Building control for Higher Risk Buildings The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 coming into force on 1 October set out the building control processes for higher risk buildings that will apply to new projects

Role of Accountable Persons How Accountable Persons will need to develop the building safety case required by new regulations coming  into force on 1 October for management of higher risk buildings under Part 4 of the Building Safety Act 2022.

The key requirements of the Golden Thread Under new regulations coming into force on October 1, Delivering the Golden Thread for a project requires close attention to any changes to the design during construction.

Notices for work New rules for the deposit of plans has been introduced by the Building Regulations (Amendments etc) (England) Regulations 2023. They apply to all building work and they come into force on 1st October.

Duties and competence The Building Regulations (Amendments etc) (England) Regulations 2023 inserts a new Part 2A into the Building Regulations 2010, which has  requirements on clients to appoint designers and contractors who are competent. There are also new duties for clients, designers and contractors

Inspections and information Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety exposed almost total failure to provide fire safety information under Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations. The changes to the Building Regulations which come into force on 1 October provide much greater clarity on provision of fire safety information as well as commissioning reports for all building work

  • Read more new articles on the regulations, including a new Part on dutyholders and competence, at

Links to new regulations

The new regulations deliver the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt in her report Building A Safer Future and cover the technical detail underpinning the new, more stringent regime for the design and construction of higher-risk buildings, wider changes to the Building Regulations for all buildings and the details of the new in-occupation safety regime for higher-risk buildings.

Amendments announced on August 17 2023:
The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023
The Building Regulations (Higher-Risk Building Procedures) (England) 2023    
The Building (Approved Inspectors etc. And Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023
The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023 
The Building Safety Act 2022 (Consequential Amendments etc.) Regulations 2023

A summary of all secondary legislation can be found at:
The Building Safety Act: secondary legislation